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Predicting America’s Next Wave of Opioid Overdose as the Worst

America on drugs

It is all around us

In the schools, workplaces, and the streets. No parents, teenagers, or even young kids are safe from this epidemic. The opioid epidemic has come in waves throughout the years. The year coming up and the years to follow are going to be the worst opioid epidemic yet. As medicine advances so do the opioids that the public has access to. Unfortunately, those of us who end up having to take these medications for severe injuries can become addicted. When taken as instructed opioids can be extremely helpful. Abusing opioids is when addiction is apparent, and overdose is likely to happen. We should not play doctor or pharmacist, for there can be severe consequences. The study highlighted in this article will show how high and dangerous opioid overdose is and what to expect from the one coming now. 

What Have Studies Shown About Opioid Overdose?

       A recent study done by researchers at Northwestern Medicine predicts the fourth wave of opioid overdoses will be the worst one yet. The researchers used a COVID-19 model of earlier opioid-involved deaths to predict where the new opioid epidemic will increase. The research shows all areas in the U.S. will have high overdose rates whether it be rural or urban areas. To begin the study researchers first needed to analyze if geography played a part in the first three waves of the opioid epidemic. The researchers began to examine the geography of earlier opioid-involved overdose deaths from 1999-2020. Researchers used data that came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Wonder database. This data examined 3,147 counties from the United States and categorized them into a six-point urbanity scale starting from most urban to most rural. 

What Did the Study Conclude?

The study concluded that there is an escalation across rural and urban counties in opioid overdoses. Lori Post, director of the Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine states, “Not only is the death rate from an opioid at an all-time high but the acceleration of that death rate signals explosive exponential growth that is even larger than an already historic high.” Lori Post continues to say, “Between 2019 and 2020 rates of opioid overdose deaths converged while escalating for the first time across six types of rural and urban counties.” From the data collected it is clear to see that opioid overdoses are spiraling and spreading faster than in any previous years of opioid overdoses. The year 2020 has the highest level of opioid overdoses ever recorded. This is the first time researchers have used geography to study opioid overdose deaths. Using geography to predict the fourth wave of opioid overdose deaths has shown to be useful. The study concluded that rural areas were rising quicker in opioid overdose deaths than in urban areas. Geography is not the only player in the rise of opioid overdoses. 

opioid trends

(Credit: Northwestern University)

Why has Opioid Overdose Gotten So High?

The other player in America reaching a historic high in opioid overdose is users who are taking synthetic opioids like fentanyl mixed with stimulants like methamphetamine. Recent toxicology reports expose people taking fentanyl and carfentanil mixed with methamphetamines and cocaine. The synthetic opioid fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. The synthetic opioid carfentanil is one hundred times stronger than fentanyl. Doctors and researchers are concerned about users mixing synthetic opioids and stimulants together because naloxone is not working on reviving people. Posts say, “It appears that those who have died from opioid overdoses have been playing pharmacist and trying to manage their own dosing.” Post continues,” This is a bigger problem because you have people misusing cocaine and methamphetamines along with an opioid, so you have to treat two things at once, and the fentanyl is horribly volatile.” Due to not having something that can counter both drugs, it will be hard to prevent the mass wave of deaths predicted to happen. To help addicts and prevent this mass wave of deaths more methadone or buprenorphine centers should open, especially in rural areas that lack or have no medication-assisted treatment options. Bringing awareness to this can help put a fight to the fourth wave of opioid overdose coming. This study is published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

American family



What Can We Do?

 If struggling with opioid addiction the first thing is to stop and check into a detox center. Detoxing off a stimulant without medical care is risky. There can be severe withdrawal symptoms depending on how long the addiction has been going on and what stimulant or opioid is being abused. Detox centers do not have to be the only place to get treatment, there are sober living and outpatient programs. Getting help is a good thing. Treatment and therapy create new life practices that make us feel good and better about ourselves. If you know someone struggling with an opioid addiction encourages them to get help. The person must be willing to get help for treatment to be successful. Substance abuse treatment centers do not take anyone unwillingly, it is against the law. We need to talk to our children about the dangers of opioids and overdosing. Opioids such as fentanyl are in schools. We need to keep our children safe. How we face the fourth wave of the opioid epidemic will depend on the actions we take. We must stop our younger generation from facing worse opioid epidemics with each passing year. Overdose does not need to be the result of an addiction, seek substance abuse treatment, and become the person you are meant to be. Call Vanity Wellness on 866 587 1737 for more information on preventing opioid addiction. 

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