The U.S. is in the midst of an opioid crisis. In 2017 President Trump acknowledged the opioid crisis and the roles played by opioid manufacturers and distributors. The proliferation of opioid prescriptions coincided with the incessant rise in drug overdoses, which surpassed car accidents as the most accidental deaths. Drug overdoses were fueled by opioid-related overdoses. The Center for Disease and Control (“CDC) carves out opioid-related overdoses and fentanly-related overdoses separately. That’s how much of an impact that fentanyl, which is 100 times more powerful than morphine, has had on drug overdoses.
The logic was that (1) opioid manufacturers were getting rich off of opioid sales and (2) if you reduced the number of prescriptions then opioid us would fall. State attorneys general are suing opioid manufactures and distributors for about $30 billion for their roles in the opioid epidemic. However, drug overdoses are still rising, despite the fall off in prescriptions. According to the CDC, drug overdoses were an estimated 93,000 in 2020, up nearly 30% Y/Y:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed death certificates for drug overdoses in 2020 and estimated over 93,000 occurred which translated to roughly 11 deaths every hour, the Associated Press reported.
The previous high was from last year at about 72,000 drug overdose deaths, an increase of 29 percent. The 21,000 increase is the biggest jump since the count rose by 11,000 in 2016.
For historical context: The CDC said there were fewer than 7,200 total U.S. overdose deaths reported in 1970, during the heroin epidemic. There was also about 9,000 deaths in 1988, around the height of the crack epidemic.
Many are blaming the pandemic-induced recession for the rise in drug overdoses. People spent more time at home, were isolated and had less-access to resources needed for treatment and prevention. Once the pandemic is over those figures could drop. Nonetheless, the fact pattern suggests people simply like to get high. We have a heroin problem in this country, in addition to an overall drug problem. Trump and the GE pointed out years ago that the opioid crisis materialized in the Rust Belt (Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia), which was hard-hit be a flailing economy and lack of jobs.
There are several factors driving drug addiction. America is a crumbling empire. The country is in pain, and drug abuse appears to be a coping mechanism. You can sue opioid manufacturers and make them the scapegoat, yet the record level of drug overdoses – in the face of falling opioid prescriptions – tells a much different story. Unless the country addresses other factors – drug demand, a failing empire – the situation will persist.