According to a new study published in the journal JAMA Network Open by researchers from St Michaels Hospital in Toronto, Canada, the opioid problem in the United States has been getting far worse in the last 3 years. The percentage of all opiate deaths — that accounts for heroin, painkillers, and more — has increased 292%. 

1.68 million people died in 2016 alone, according to the research, with most deaths happening between the ages of 24 and 35. 

  • For the 24 to 35 age bracket, 1 in 5 (20%) deaths were due to opioid use, up from just 4% in 2001. 
  • 1,681,359 years of life were lost (the average age of American life is 78.4 years, as per the 2012 census)
  • Perhaps most shocking of all, opioids accounted for 12.5% of the deaths between ages 15 to 24. 
  • 67.5% of opioid deaths were men, with the median age of 40 years old. 

It's hard to write this article — honestly — without having some sort of emotional reaction to the numbers. It's easy to read 1.6 million people, but that doesn't quite touch upon those affected - be it friends, families, teachers, students, colleagues - by these deaths. How much of this is being pushed upon by drug companies? It doesn't take a seasoned journalist to find hundreds - if not thousands - of stories about perfectly healthy people perhaps getting something innocuous like oral surgery and then becoming hooked on the overly strong painkillers. Speaking from personal experience, I got given a scrip for Norco after having a root canal; an insanely powerful painkiller for a moderate-at-best level of pain. That's like fighting a mosquito with a flamethrower (FYI: dentists prescribe 12% of the opiates in this country.)

And you want to know why there are so many opioids on the market? Drug makers have spent close to $2.7 billion over the past 12 years on lobbying to keep it happening. 

Forgive me for saying this, but the opioid crisis fucking sucks. We as a country can and should do a lot better and a lot more to curb this. 

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