Interactive map lays bare America's devastating overdose epidemic: Analysis of 15 years of data reveals key ages, genders, regions, and drugs behind the crisis
- Overdose deaths have increased 137% since 2000; more than 50,000 Americans fatally overdosed in 2015
- This interactive map, using CDC statistics, puts the staggering epidemic into context
- It breaks down the statistics into gender, age group, drug preference, and region
- The steepest increase in overdose deaths has been among those aged between 65 and 74 years old
Prescription opioids and illicit drugs have become incredibly pervasive throughout the U.S., and things are only getting worse.
Overdose deaths have increased 137 percent since 2000.
In fact, new figures released today revealed more than 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year - the highest figure ever.
Fentanyl, a painkiller, causes 44 deaths every day, making it the most dangerous drug in America.
An analysis of 15 years of data shows the steepest increase in overdose deaths has been among those aged between 65 and 74 years old – going from 16 deaths in 1999, to 680 deaths in 2014, a 4,150 percent increase.
This is likely to do with chronic pain and un-monitored prescription opioid refills, as well as those turning to cheaper on-the-street alternatives - like heroin - when they cannot afford pharmaceutical drugs.
Opioids – which are legal, controlled substances often prescribed by doctors – have caused a 200 percent increase in overdose deaths.
This interactive map, using CDC statistics, puts the staggering epidemic into context.
MAPPING FATAL OVERDOSES IN AMERICA
To get a clear picture of America's drug use patterns, DrugAbuse.com mapped out fatal overdose rates by state and substance over a 15-year period.
A look at certain demographics reveals that the highest fatality rates for each substance tended to be concentrated in specific regions or states.
For men, these rates were high across a wider age range, while female fatality rates for each substance were lower overall and more limited to a particular age bracket.
Alaska had the most fatal alcohol overdoses, averaging nearly 26 deaths per 100,000 residents.
A research study found that a large percentage of the state's population partakes in dangerous binge drinking behaviors: 20 percent of adults and 12.5 percent of high school students.
The age bracket incurring the most alcohol-related deaths in Alaska was 45 to 54, for both genders; however, women in this age bracket significantly tipped the scales.
Alaskan women 45 to 54 died from alcohol at a rate of 20 per 100,000, which is significantly higher than any other female demographic group in the country.
The next highest female alcohol fatalities hovered around nearly 6 per 100,000.
Men, however, had consistently high fatality rates across the board – averaging 20-40 per 100,000 – with middle-aged men ranking highest.
Women were more likely to fatally overdose on opioids than anything else.
Death rates higher than 10 per 100,000 people were present in every age category, with averages doubling per 100,000 people in the 25-34, 35-44, and 45-54 age brackets.
Regionally, these deaths were widely distributed, but West Virginia showed high opioid death rates for all female age demographics.
Benzodiazepine-related deaths were also common in West Virginia, for both men and women. Fatality rates ranging from 20-30 per 100,000 people were seen in men and women aged 25-54 years old.
Heroin overdoses were generally most prevalent in New England, particularly in the 25-34 and 35-44 male age demographics.
This region also saw a high rate of cocaine overdoses for men, particularly in Rhode Island.
Female cocaine deaths, on the other hand, had the highest numbers in the New Mexico area, peaking around 8- 9 per 100,000 in the 35-44 and 45-54 demographics.
TOTAL OVERDOSE DEATHS BASED ON GENDER
More men than women have died as a result of substance abuse.
The statistics are broken down into six classifications of drugs – stimulants, alcohol, benzodiazepines, cocaine, heroin, and prescription opioids.
Over the 15-year period 52,669 women and 96,429 men fatally overdosed.
Benzodiazepine accounted for a majority of overdoses among women, with just over 20,200 overdoses. However, across all drug categories, overdose rates were higher among men
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are a number of contributing factors such as increases in written prescriptions, invested marketing spend by powerful pharmaceutical companies, and patient reliance on prescription medication.
The next leading cause of death for men was cocaine, with roughly 59,900 overdoses.
Benzodiazepine accounted for a majority of overdoses among women, with just over 20,200 overdoses. However, across all drug categories, overdose rates were higher among men.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, men have almost twice the rate of substance dependence as women.
Additionally, whereas women tend to internalize problems, men often externalize problems, engaging in impulsive behaviors, which lead to greater chances of substance use disorder development.
OVERDOSE DEATHS BASED ON AGE
There has been an overall increase in deaths for all age groups over a 15-year period between 1999 and 2014.
The youngest age group, 15-24, went from 320 to 2,735 deaths. The oldest age group, 65-74, went from 16 to 680 deaths.
Middle-aged groups showed increase as follows: those aged 25-34 went from 1,757 to 10,475 deaths; those aged 35-44 went from 4,225 to 10,475 deaths; and those aged 55-64 went from 226 to 7,486 deaths.
The steepest increase in overdose deaths came from those aged 65-74 years – going from 16 deaths in 1999, to 680 deaths in 2014, a 4,150 percent increase.
The steepest increase in overdose deaths came from those aged 65-74 years – going from 16 deaths in 1999, to 680 deaths in 2014, a 4,150 percent increase
According to the CDC, the number of painkillers sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled since 1999. However, the amount of reported pain hasn't changed.
Opioid deaths among the elderly may be attributed to biological factors.
As the body ages, it loses the ability to effectively clear drugs out of its system. A standard dose of opioids for a younger person could be a fatal overdose for an older individual.
OPIOID DEATHS AMONG SENIORS
When it comes to opioid abuse and fatal overdoses, seniors are a very vulnerable group. Over a 15-year period, per 100,000 residents, both senior men and women increasingly fell victim to prescription opioid drug abuse.
Increasingly, doctors are aggressively prescribing opioids to seniors with chronic pain.
Although some problems can be managed with alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, exercise, or chiropractic manipulation, many doctors are being taught that the best way to treat older Americans, regardless of the severity of their conditions, is with opioids.
Over a 15-year period, both senior men and women increasingly fell victim to prescription opioid drug abuse
From 1999 to 2014, senior men experienced a 775 percent increase in opioid overdoses, going from 16 to 140 deaths. Senior women, on the other hand, experienced a 1,682 percent change from 1999 to 2014; they went from 11 to 196 deaths.
Although both genders are dying at an alarming rate, senior women are paying a higher price when it comes to this epidemic.
Compared with senior men, older women are more likely to suffer from chronic pain and may use opioids longer than men.
While men are more apt to seek treatment for opioid abuse, women may feel too ashamed or embarrassed to admit that they need help. Unfortunately, when help does come, it's sometimes too late.
PREVENTING SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS AND FATAL OVERDOSES
Many pathways can lead to drug use, including societal influences, previous injuries, and mental illness.
Many people don't get the help they need because stigmas surrounding addiction still exist.
Over a 15-year period, addiction nor overdoses discriminate by age, gender or geography.
That said, there are higher rates among specific demographics. There are resources available to help people get care before it's too late.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, call 1-888-930-7812.
Overdose statistics were collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER MCD database
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