United States drug crisis deepens as opioid overdoses jump

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UW Hospital has seen an increase in overdoses involving prescription opioids and illicit opioids, such as heroin and illegally formulated fentanyl, said Dr. Brian Sharp. Increases were seen in rates across demographic groups and all 5 USA regions; the largest increases were seen in the Southwest, Midwest, and West (about 7 to 11% per quarter).

The report calls on health departments to better inform its communities of these significant rates, as well as increase access to treatments and resources to overdose and addiction. But preliminary numbers from CDC show drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma rose by 12 percent, to 844 people.

That's not to say they're the sole region affected by the opioid epidemic. "We saw, sadly, that in every region, in every age group of adults, in both men and women, overdoses from opioids are increasing", Acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat tells NPR, pointing out the crisis may be worse than the data suggest. The response plan includes allowing emergency room doctors to start overdose survivors in medication.

In 16 states there were 119,198 emergency department visits (26.7 per 10,000 visits) that were suspected opioid-involved overdoses. "So we think there probably is not an increase in people using drugs, but there is an increase in the danger associated with a single use".

"The science is clear - addiction is a chronic disease and not a moral failing", he said.

The report found that from July 2016 to September 2017, a total of 142,557 emergency room visits were due to suspected opioid overdoses. "The number of Americans experiencing opioid overdoses is still increasing".

"We don't have to wait until it's too late", Schuchat said.

"There's a lot more we can do", he said. But some states that historically have had the worst opioid problems, including West Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, experienced small decreases in overdose visits. In Kentucky, the CDC's analysis showed a 15 percent drop in overdoses.

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