As the year comes to a close, and the addiction research landscape eeks out its last bit of figures from the prior year, the Ghost of Addictions Past once again rears its ugly head. Since 2014, the United States has seen record highs in opioid overdose fatalities, with some states being affected far more than others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published a breakdown of what states were hit the hardest. Among other startling findings in the report was the stark, and admittedly demoralizing realization that we still have a great deal of work to do as a country in combatting this pervasive public health issue.
On a national scale, there were about 10.4 opioid overdose deaths for every 100,000 people. The states that had the highest number of opioid overdose deaths were California (2,018), New York (2,166), Ohio (2,698), and Florida (1,838). Areas hit hardest relative to their population include New England and the Ohio/Kentucky/West Virginia region. Although California was among the highest for deaths overall, the state’s rate per 100,000 was among the lowest along with Texas, Hawaii and the northern Plains states. Data for heroin overdose rates were suppressed in Arkansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
Florida continues its status as a breeding ground for substance abuse and addiction despite significant institutional intervention. The state had 567 heroin deaths, 610 deaths from synthetic opioids and 789 “natural” opiate deaths last year. A significant number of these overdose cases might very well have taken root during the height of Florida’s pill mill epidemic between 2009-2013, which went unaddressed for a number of years and gave birth to thousands of addicts throughout the state, including senior citizens, adolescents and young adults. Many more Floridians, however, have felt the impact of addiction well after these pill mills closed.
Whatever the origin from case to case, this tally is a tragic and alarming reminder of the uphill battle we still have as a nation in combatting what has become the number-one public health issue facing the United States. Although there has been increase in prevention and treatment funding this year, including the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act of 2016, time will tell if it’s enough to help the over 20 million Americans who continue to struggle with addiction every day. We have a lot of work to do