The opioid crisis is on a disturbingly sharp upward trend across the U.S. despite the federal government’s tough talk and costly crackdown efforts, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
From July 2016 through September 2017, emergency hospital visits due to opioid overdose rocketed 30 percent overall and 35 percent in the 16 states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, according to the CDC.
“We have an emergency on our hands,” said acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat, according to NPR. “The fast-moving opioid overdose epidemic continues and is accelerating.”
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has created a special task force devoted to identifying and taking down individual doctors, pharmacists, and others it catches fraudulently peddling the drugs, but the latest numbers indicate that efforts so far have been far too weak in stopping the tidal wave of opioid painkillers that many people of all ages and backgrounds find hopelessly addictive.
“This fast-moving epidemic does not distinguish age, sex, or state or county lines, and is still increasing in every region of the United States,” CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, MD, told the press. “Up until now, we’ve been reporting on the tragic loss of life from opioid overdoses, but for every fatal case, there are many more nonfatal cases, each one with its own emotional and economic toll.”
The makers of opioid drugs, the companies that distribute them, and the pharmacies that sell them are facing more than 400 federal lawsuits filed by cities, counties, and Native American tribes. All of them seek compensation for an epidemic that is having devastating impacts not only on addicts and their families but on local economies. Many of them seek to hold the purveyors of opioids liable for fraudulent practices that unleashed a torrent of the potent painkillers on their communities.
Increases in opioid overdose were staggeringly higher than average in some states, according to the CDC’s latest numbers. The largest increase anywhere was seen in Wisconsin (109 percent), followed by Illinois (66 percent), Indiana (35 percent), Ohio (28 percent), and Missouri (21 percent).
Delaware showed the second-largest increase (105 percent). Other major hikes in opioid addiction in the Northeast were seen in Pennsylvania (81 percent) and Maine (34 percent).
Every demographic experienced substantial increases in the rate of opioid overdose, CDC researchers found, including males (30 percent) and females (24 percent) in every age group. Increases were highest among those age 35 to 54 (36 percent), followed by 55 and older (32 percemt), and 25 to 34 (31 percent). The highest opioid rate increase occurred In cities with a population of at least 1 million (54 percent).
Other than holding inquiries, Congress has done little to tackle the opioid epidemic. Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Center at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, told NPR, “There’s been a lot of talk from Congress and from the administration and a recognition that we need to do something about this problem. But nothing yet has happened.”