‘No one should be sick’: Why the Trump administration’s opioid crisis has been worse than predicted
As the Trump Administration ramps up opioid and heroin abuse, health care workers and advocates have been warning of a “slow-motion disaster” of rising prescription painkiller usage, worsening opioid dependency, and increased death.
But according to a new report from the nonprofit research group Kaiser Family Foundation, those fears are not quite true.
In a report released today, Kaiser found that opioid deaths in 2016 were less than they were in 2015, despite the fact that opioid prescriptions have increased sharply, and the number of people dying from opioid overdoses has increased in the past year.
“Despite all of these increases, there is no evidence that opioid use and overdose deaths have fallen significantly,” said Kaiser President and CEO Nancy Hensarling.
“Rather, the opioid crisis is getting worse and the costs of the crisis are mounting.
The public health response is still too weak to stem the epidemic, and we must continue to invest in prevention and treatment, while also taking steps to address the underlying causes of this crisis.”
The report was written by researchers at the Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive think tank.
The researchers looked at data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which tracks and reports on health-care spending.
They also looked at drug overdose deaths from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which track and reports to the federal government on firearms and drug crimes.
They found that overdose deaths rose slightly in 2016, but that the rate of deaths from prescription painkillers had fallen sharply, to 2.2 deaths per 100,000 Americans.
They added that the number who were addicted to opioids rose by about 2.7 million, which is roughly equal to the number dying from the opioid epidemic overall.
“In 2016, we saw dramatic increases in opioid overdose deaths, but the increase was not nearly as dramatic as the increase in overdose deaths overall, which we now believe was driven by prescription opioid use,” Hensuring said.
“The number of overdose deaths and opioid-related deaths were not the same, and prescription opioids were responsible for the majority of deaths.
While there were some important differences in how states tracked the opioid overdose and opioid prescription data, overall, the data showed that the overdose deaths are far higher than the overall overdose death rate.”
While the opioid and prescription data shows that opioid overdoses have been on a steady rise since 2016, the researchers noted that there is little correlation between the number and the rate at which opioid prescriptions are being used.
“While the trend toward more opioid prescriptions has been apparent since 2015, there was little indication that this trend would accelerate,” they wrote.
“Even if opioid prescribing is up and prescribing is down, there appears to be little to no correlation between this change and the increase of overdose fatalities,” the authors said.
They noted that prescription pain pills are the most common form of opioid prescribed for pain, but prescription opioids are not always available to opioid addicts.
“Given that a large majority of Americans are opioid users and that opioid painkillers are increasingly being prescribed for non-cancer pain, this increase in opioid use is likely to have had a significant impact on the opioid prescription rate,” they said.
“These findings suggest that the opioid death rate is unlikely to be substantially affected by the continued use of prescription opioids by opioid users,” they concluded.
“The opioid crisis will continue to plague America, but it is a crisis that has been greatly underestimated,” Heningarling said.