From 1999 to 2016 630,000 people died from a drug overdose, and 350,000 people died from an opioid overdose. 115 people die every day from an opioid overdose. In 2016 there were 63,600 drug overdose deaths and about 66% of those deaths involved an opioid. That is five times higher than the death rate in 1999.

The CDC outlines the opioid epidemic in waves. It all started in the 1990s with prescription opioids, in 1999 the rise in deaths from these prescription opioids make up the first wave. The second wave in 2010 involves the rise in heroin overdose deaths. Then in 2013, the third wave hit with a rise in synthetic opioid overdose rates.

What are prescription opioids?

They are the pain drugs doctors give you for pain. So cancer patients and those in post-surgery recovery are prescribed these the most. The most common drugs are Methadone, Oxycodone aka “Hillbilly Heroin”, and Hydrocodone. Heroin is an illegal street drug that is highly addictive. It is normally injected but can be smoked or snorted.

Fentanyl is the new wave of the opioid crisis. It is a synthetic opioid and is typically used for advanced stage cancer patients. What is so dangerous about fentanyl is its potency, it is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. Some drugs, mostly heroin and cocaine, are cut with fentanyl making the effects of these drugs stronger. This is sometimes done without the knowledge of the people taking them.

A result of the opioid crisis nobody talks about is the effects it has on children. As of 2017, Kentucky leads the nation in babies born addicted to opioids. Part of First Lady Melania Trump’s Be Best initiative is addressing the needs of children affected by this crisis. Especially children born addicted to drugs. These infants are given doses of morphine and slowly taken down off of it. They scream, have seizures or convulsions, and will throw up due to the withdrawal. These children are sometimes placed in the NICU for seven weeks or more.

President Trump was right in declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency. States like Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia might have the highest overdose rates; but unless we address this problem soon your state might be on this list too.