Last year, Nashville, Tennessee, firefighters administered the opioid reversal drug Narcan 1,777 times – more than twice as much as the year before. The staggering statistic shows just how dire the nation’s opioid epidemic has become, according to WSMW News 4.
More than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, including illicit drugs (like heroin), prescription opioids (like OyxContin and hydrocodone), and synthetic opioids (predominantly fentanyl) – a two-fold increase in a decade, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The United States is paying in more than human lives. According to the CDC, the estimated “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone is $78.5 billion annually, which includes the cost of health care, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal involvement. Every demographic and every community is impacted by the opioid epidemic.
The crisis didn’t happen by chance. It was fueled by pharmaceutical companies in the late 1990s, who assured the medical community that patients wouldn’t become addicted or dependent on its powerful painkillers. As a result, health care providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. This led to widespread misuse and abuse because the drugs were far more addictive than the drug companies led people to believe.
About 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, and an estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports. About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription drugs.
As a result, opioid reversal agents like Narcan are now available, and emergency responders carry the drug in the event of an overdose. As Nashville firefighter statistics prove, the antidotes are being used more and more to save lives.
National Institute on Drug Abuse