Federal researchers now warn that Americans are more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than be killed in an auto accident, making the opioid overdose risk one of the top health threats in the United States.
In a new report that analyzed preventable injury and fatality statistics from 2017, researchers from the National Safety Council (NSC) indicate that the risk of accidental overdose from opioids exceeds the odds of a fatal car accident.
The lifetime odds of dying from an accidental opioid overdose are now 1 in 96, whereas motor vehicle fatality odds were calculated at 1 in 103, according to the report. Two additional categories with increases were fatality by falls, especially for the elderly, which were found to be 1 in 114 odds, and the lifetime odds of suicide which were estimated at 1 in 88.
When comparing 2017 to 2016, researchers found an 11 percent increase in poisoning deaths that was largely driven by the nation’s opioid crisis, as well as a 3.7 percent increase in suicide deaths, and a five percent increase in fall deaths.
In 2016, drug overdoses accounted for 174 fatalities per day, while in 2017 that number rose to an average 200 deaths daily. Since 2011, drug-related deaths have outnumbered the deaths by firearms, auto accidents, suicide and murder.
More than 70,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the country in 2017, and 68% involved an opioid painkiller, according to federal investigators. Of those, 60% involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl. This was a 45% increase from 2016.
Researchers also noted drug overdose death rates increased in 35 of 50 states across the country and Washington D.C.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid painkiller 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is linked to more overdose deaths than any other drug in the U.S. and accounts for one-third of all fatal overdoses, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. It is now considered the most dangerous drug in the U.S.
The opioid crisis across the nation is not just impacting adults, but also children. A study published earlier this month in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, warned that pediatric opioid poisonings are growing at an alarming rate. While most of the child opioid poisonings involved teens between the ages of 15 and 19, an alarming number of toddlers and adolescents are also dying from the powerful pain medications.
According to the findings, 88 percent were between the ages of 15 and 19, and a little less than seven percent were age four or under. However, the researchers found that, during the study period, the overall pediatric mortality rate increased from 0.22 deaths per 100,000 children, to 0.88; which represents an increase of 268.2 percent.
In recognition of the opioid epidemic ravaging communities nationwide, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an opioid treatment draft guidance in August, aimed at developing more widespread innovation of medications for treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD).