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Heroin Now Responsible for a Quarter of the Nation's Overdoses

Last week, the CDC reported that 25 percent of the total number of overdoses that befell this country back in 2015 were related to heroin. Further, researchers have discovered that the number of fatal overdoses in general has doubled since 1999. The total number of fatal overdoses was just over six deaths per 100,000 people back in 1999. In 2015, that number skyrocketed to 16.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

The CDC mainly focused on heroin usage for its report, which has been trending at a steady increase over the past 15 years. In 1999, the percentage of heroin-related drug overdoses was at 8 percent. By 2015, it had soared to 25 percent – nearly triple what it was a decade and a half ago. Opioid use in general has rising at an alarming rate, with over 33,000 people dying from fatal overdoses in 2015. The CDC pointed out how nearly 500,000 people have died between 2000 and 2015 due to opioids.

And here's something truly sobering: opioid use has become so prevalent that it has actually caused the overall life expectancy to drop for the first time in decades. Since 1993, life expectancy has been on a continual rise, but in December of 2016, the rate suffered its first drop. It may seem insignificant at first, considering the drop was only .1 per year, but this is not a good alteration and needs to be changed quickly before it continues to increase.

The major causes of death still remain the same, with heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory diseases rounding out the top three. However, while deaths from cancer enjoyed a much-welcomed drop, and pneumonia actually plateaued, accidental poisoning rose 13 percent, and 97 percent of that number was due to opioid overdoses. The CDC noted in particular that they are seeing a rise in what they call "preventable" causes of death, and that is a tragic shame.

One of the major problems with drug abuse prevention efforts is that the focus tends to be on illegal drugs, not prescriptions, and prescription drugs are one of the most dangerous forces to be reckoned with in America right now. At least half of all overdoses are related to prescription opioids, and overdose deaths that can be attributed to those drugs have quadrupled since the beginning of the '00s.

The problem is that these drugs are legal, most pharmacies carry them, and many people rely on them in order to recover from or cope with chronic pain. Nowadays, drug "dealers" are simply 9-to-5 pharmacists putting through someone's prescription.

The last time the overall life expectancy rate decreased was in 1993. This was due, in part, to a flu outbreak and the height of the AIDS crisis. The following year, AIDS would become the leading cause of death in America for people aged 25-44. Now, that very same killer is the prescription drugs that people have been falsely lulled into believing will ease their pain and make them feel better.