Saturday, February 24, 2018

Unexpected Patterns in 2014 Drug Overdose Data


The number of deaths from drug overdoses reached a new peak in 2014 – the equivalent of about 125 Americans every day – according to new county-level estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Driven largely by an explosion in addiction to prescription opioids and heroin, death rates have reached a new peak, and are now growing faster in rural areas than in metropolitan areas. County-level estimates published in The New York Times on 1/20/16 show how Appalachia and the Southwest have become the hardest hit areas. See the county-by-county map of overdose deaths from 2002 to 2014 here.

Earlier in the week, The New York Times published their own analysis of CDC data and concluded that drug overdoses are driving up the death rates of young white adults, in sharp contrast to the falling death rates of young Blacks. This makes white adults ages 25 to 34 the first generation since the Vietnam War years of the mid-1960s to experience higher death rates in early adulthood than the generation that preceded it. Death rates for Black and Hispanic adults have fallen since 1999, and the gap between whites and Blacks is shrinking. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a drug abuse expert, says that in this case racial stereotypes are protecting minority patients from the worst of the narcotic epidemic partially because doctors may be more reluctant to prescribe prescription painkillers to minority patients.

AAPM faculty member Brett B. Snodgrass APRN, FNP-C, Director of Clinical Operations at LifeLinc Pain Center in Cordova, Tennessee, commented that the biggest issue in the US is being able to offer mental health and addiction services. ”Many of these deaths are not, in fact, tied to a prescription the patient has been given. So the knee-jerk reaction would be no opioids to younger patients,” she said, “But this is a scary thing as well. It is definitely a reason why I am utilizing abuse-deterrent opioids more and more frequently and prescribing naloxone therapy more often, as well as individualizing treatment of patients in this age group.”

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About Christine Rhodes, MS, Clinical Editor, The Pain Practitioner