From Dr. Mercola:
More than 28,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2014 — more deaths than any other year on record, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The number includes deaths from both heroin and prescription opioid pain relievers, but the latter accounted for at least half.1,2 The epidemic, which, by the way, is the CDC’s own term for this increasingly alarming trend, appears to only be getting worse.
Since 1999, opioid overdose deaths quadrupled, as did the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. All of these pain relievers did not equate to equal amounts of pain relief, however, as Americans reported pain levels stayed steady during that time.3
Meanwhile, death rates from overdoses of oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone and other prescription opioids also quadrupled since 1999.4 In some areas, such deaths are becoming so commonplace they’re overwhelming coroner and medical examiner systems.
Some Areas Are Looking Into Renting Refrigerated Trucks to Store Bodies
In Connecticut, the chief medical examiner has considered renting a refrigerated truck to store bodies because the storage space at the medical examiner’s office is often maxed out.
The space shortage is attributed to rising drug overdose deaths, including opioid overdoses, which are pushing many medical examiner and coroner offices to their limits.
In areas like Cincinnati, Ohio, forensic pathologists responsible for conducting autopsies on many such victims may conduct more than 325 autopsies this year alone.
The National Association of Medical Examiners’ (NAME) accrediting program puts the limit at 325 a year, and offices that conduct more risk losing accreditation.
Some coroner’s offices are also facing backlogs of DNA testing for drug investigations, again in large part due to overdose deaths. Dr. David Fowler, Maryland’s chief medical examiner and president of NAME, told STAT News:5
“There are many, many parts of the country that have substantial problems I think the drug overdoses have substantially increased the problems.”
Opioid Use Among Seniors Soars
The opioid epidemic has touched lives both young and old. A new report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealed that seniors take the drugs at an “astounding” rate.6
About 12 million Medicare beneficiaries, or about 1 in 3, received at least one opioid painkiller prescription in 2015, totaling $4.1 billion. Among those taking the drugs, most received more than one prescription or refill; the average was actually five opioid prescriptions or refills per opioid user.
The most popular opioid drugs among seniors include the commonly abused OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, fentanyl and generic equivalents. The study’s lead author noted concerns about the high rates of use as well as the potential for abuse.
Among seniors, the health risks of all medications are increased, because the body takes longer to break down and get rid of the drug than it does in a younger person.
As a result, the drug stays in an older person’s system longer,