The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported that nearly 70,000 people fatally overdose from opioids (a class of drug including heroin and prescription painkillers) per year, reinforcing the devastating impact of the rising rates opioid addiction. In 2010, it is estimated that more than 16,000 people died from a prescription opioid overdose in the U.S. alone.
The report acknowledges that the rise in overdose deaths stems at least in part from the increased prescription of opioids to treat chronic pain over the past decade. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that the sale of strong painkillers (such as OxyContin or Percocet) has increased 300 percent since 1999 in the U.S.
WHO also released guidelines to help reduce the number of opioid-related deaths. It recommended expanding access to naloxone, an overdose antidote, to those likely to witness an opioid overdose— emergency responders, police, and family members of people struggling with addiction. This approach has saved lives: “A recent survey in the United States found that the distribution of approximately 50,000 naloxone kits through local opioid overdose prevention program had resulted in more than 10,000 uses to reverse overdoses,” the report said.
Making naloxone more available should be an easy choice given its success preventing unnecessary loss of life. However, in order to end the crisis, more must be done to prevent future cases of addiction and expand access to treatment for those already addicted to opioids.
Source: World Health Organization –