For the first time in recorded history, U.S. residents are more likely to die from an opioid overdose than from a car accident, according to a new analysis released Monday.
The study is the latest measure of the epidemic of accidental deaths resulting from the dangerous drug, which claims over 100 lives per day in the United States – many of which are from prescription drugs.
According to the study by the Illinois-based National Safety Council, the odds of a U.S. resident dying from an accidental opioid overdose are 1 in 96 – a number that throws a huge, dark shadow over other causes of death such as death in a car crash, which has a 1 in 103 chance, or death resulting from a gun assault, which carries a 1 in 285 chance.
Drug overdoses have skyrocketed in recent years, with 65,000 fatal drug overdoses taking place in 2017 alone. Many who abuse the pills have prolonged addictive fixations on opioids, with the hardest-hit age group ranging from 25 to 34 years old. A whopping 12,325 of 2017’s overdose deaths came from that age group, among whom two-thirds were men.
In a statement by the National Safety Council, the group credited the deadly opioid fentanyl, which is about 50 times stronger than heroin, with the rise in drug deaths, noting:
“The nation’s opioid crisis is fueling the Council’s grim probabilities, and that crisis is worsening with an influx of illicit fentanyl.”
Drug deaths have been on a steady increase, rising by fifteen percent to the 2017 total and by a shocking 904 percent from 1999.
A recent analysis by a Nashville, Tennessee-area laboratory showed that an increasing amount of fentanyl is being found in drugs such as cocaine and heroin. In a study of over 10,000 drug tests, 40 percent of all urine samples that tested positive for heroin contained fentanyl, while 28 percent of samples containing cocaine carried the synthetic opioid.
Yet other forms of opioids such as pain relievers have played a role in the ascent of these morbid numbers. According to a survey by the Substance Abuse and Medical Health Services Administration, there are 4.3 million nonmedical users of painkillers in the U.S.
Many who are prescribed common opioids by doctors often transition into an addiction to the pills or to an addiction to the much more dangerous heroin. Among those who have abused prescription painkillers, seventy percent reported that a friend or relative gave them the pills.
Those who abstain from drugs still face a 1 in 25 probability of losing their lives in other preventable or accidental ways, including through accidental falls, which carries a 1 in 114 chance, and through suicide, which has a 1 in 88 chance.
The group found that 47,173 people died by suicide last year, while 19,510 were killed in cases of assault. Capital punishment such as legal execution claimed 616 deaths, while only five U.S. citizens died in “operations of war,” which does not take into account deaths overseas.
The leading cause of death in the U.S. remains heart disease, which is followed by cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases.
In their statement, the Council’s manager of statistics, Ken Kolosh, noted:
“We’ve made significant strides in overall longevity in the United States, but we are dying from things typically called accidents at rates we haven’t seen in half a century. We cannot be complacent about 466 lives lost every day. This new analysis reinforces that we must consistently prioritize safety at work, at home and on the road to prevent these dire outcomes.”