In the past few years, drug overdose deaths across the United States have taken over the news. Although the rate of increase seems to be slowing, drug overdoses continue to be a serious problem across the nation.

According to a new NCI study, the United States is atop the list of overdose death rates. Its overdose death rate is more than twice the amount of that of 12 other developed countries across the globe, highlighting the seriousness of the problem nationally.

More specifically, overdose mortality rates have more than doubled in the U.S. in the 21st century. In 2016, 63,632 overdose deaths occurred. In 2017, over 72,000 overdose deaths occurred in the United States, with 49,068 of those involving opioids.

The study, which was conducted by researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) and published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, used data compiled between 2001 to 2015 from the World Health Organization (WHO).

In addition to the United States, 12 other countries were assessed: Mexico, Chile, Spain, England, Wales, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Australia.

The rate of drug overdose deaths for men and women were highest in the United States, at 35 deaths per 100,000 men and 20 deaths per 100,000 women.

The researchers also discovered that the United States had the second-highest rate of increase in drug overdose deaths, at 4.3 percent a year for men and 5.3 percent a year for women. The United States trailed only Estonia in this category.

Opioid Overdose Deaths a Contributing Issue

The overdose crisis has become a nation-wide epidemic, and opioids are a huge contributing factor. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that over 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose each day. The abuse of opioids and the addiction to them has become a serious issue that increasingly impacts public health.

Further, the abuse of opioid drugs is expensive, costing the US $78.5 billion a year in healthcare, addiction treatment and lost productivity, according to the CDC.

The number of opioid prescriptions given by physicians has gradually increased from 112 million in 1992 to 282 million in 2012. Thankfully, the number of opioid prescriptions provided has decreased, dipping to 236 million in 2016 and declining by another 10.2 percent in 2017.

Opioids are commonly used to relieve extreme pain in patients who sustain an injury, undergo surgery or experience a chronic medical condition. These drugs can also reduce feelings of anxiety, which is another common reason for their use.

Because the effects of opioids are powerful, those who seek relief from pain or anxiety may continue to crave the drug. As the body develops a tolerance to opioids, more of the drug is required to achieve the same effects. The cycle can repeat, leaving people who abuse opioids to regularly seek the drug for the high it provides.

While no state is immune to opioid abuse and addiction, it appears to be more of a rampant problem in places like West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Ohio.

Why Are Certain Types of Drugs So Addictive?

Many people do not understand how addiction to drugs happens. They might falsely believe that it is simply a lack of willpower and poor decision-making that cause people to begin to abuse drugs.

However, this is a misconception. Addiction is a disease that can develop rapidly, and it often requires professional treatment to address.

Most drugs work to impede pain signals by binding to receptors in the brain and spinal cord. They are also integral in activating the reward centers of the brain by releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for transmitting signals between brain neurons, thereby helping to create feelings of being high.

A reward system that functions properly motivates people to repeat certain behaviors and habits required to be healthy and happy. However, when dopamine surges in the reward circuit, pleasurable yet unhealthy and potentially dangerous behaviors are reinforced. When that happens, the craving to repeatedly take more drugs becomes more likely.

Because of the way that drugs can change the brain, quitting on your own can be difficult. What can you do if you find yourself in this situation?

How Can Drug Addiction Be Handled?

Though the United States must find solutions on a national level, there are addiction treatment resources available to help you find ways to better manage your substance use disorder.

Treatment centers are staffed with medical professionals who can help you take your first step toward recovery with safe and effective medical detox. From there, a customized treatment program can be designed for you that may include:

If you cope with a substance use disorder and want additional support, The Recovery Village offers a way forward for you. A substance use disorder does not have to be a life sentence. Reach out to an intake coordinator to discuss your unique circumstances and find the best facility for your needs.

Contact The Recovery Village today.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.