The unfortunate news is out. According to official statistics, Fentanyl related deaths have increased by 1,000% from 2011 to 2016. The largest increase ever recorded in US history. The numbers are alarming and call for a cause for concern. If no preventive measures are taken, we might expect to see a further rise!
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid medication that is prescribed for pain relief. Generally, a doctor would recommend the drug if the person is known to suffer from any chronic pain condition. It is also used along with other drugs for anaesthesia. However, serious concern is its use for recreational purposes. Which has essentially led to an increase in the cases of Fentanyl overdose.
A rise in Fentanyl Deaths
When we pause to look at the deaths starting from 2011, we see the rate had remained relatively stable. From 2011 to 2012, the figures stood at around 1600 deaths. A small increase was witnessed in the following year.
2014 was the year when fatalities started to multiply at an increasing rate with figures crossing 4000 deaths. A similar case was observed for 2015, with the rates climbing up to 8251.
Had the US authorities taken timely action, the rise could have been considerably stopped. However, since nothing much was done about the intensity of the problem, the numbers jumped to 18,335 deaths in 2016 alone. An increase of more than 10,000!
The scientists examining the data were able to draw some noticeable observations. Firstly, Fentanyl affected both males and females. While the gender trend remained somewhat similar from 2011 to 2013, recent times have seen some deviation.
Although the number of male fatalities remains the highest, middle-aged women are hit hardest by the Fentanyl crisis. Their cases have the sharpest rise over the years which subsequently have raised several questions.
On the other hand, the rates also reflect the racial disparity within the USA. Previously, white males were known to be the ones most affected however the situation has somewhat shifted. Now, the black and Hispanic population increasingly find themselves engulfed in the crisis. The Hispanic group in the US experienced a rise of 118% in Fentanyl-related deaths.
The US in Crisis
An American is more likely to die from a drug overdose than in a car accident. What this really means is that the Fentanyl problem is much more severe than we normally perceive it to be. Most deaths occur from overdoses where the prescribed amount is often overlooked.
While deaths resulting from Fentanyl have seen a massive increase, other synthetic opioids pose a similar danger. Hence, there is a need, more than ever to take measures in order to curb the problem.
The first step entails making the general population aware of the crisis. Not many are aware of the threat posed by the illicit opioid drugs. Therefore, it is the need of the hour for US Health Authorities to carry out awareness campaigns on a large scale.
The second measure should focus on the prescription of Fentanyl. Now it is fairly easy for any US citizen to avail a medical prescription of Opioid. Doctors should hence look out for other alternatives that can be suitable for treating chronic pains.