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Opiate Overdoses Surpass Car Crash Fatalities

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 21, 2019

Drug addiction has quickly reached epidemic proportions and is a prevalent danger in today’s society. Opiate overdose is now one of the leading causes of death in the US and can easily be prevented with the right programs. Learn more today.

Opioid abuse and addiction has reached epidemic proportions, ravaging our nation, our neighborhoods, and our families. This addiction isn’t discerning—it affects people from all socioeconomic classes, leaving behind a wake of devastation, both in the lives of those who are addicted and in those who love them.

Sadly, some people may adhere to the dangerous mindset that opioid abuse and addiction is something that could never affect them, that individuals who use these drugs are far from their life. Nothing could be further from the truth. This perception is part of what fuels a dangerous stigma concerning the reality and devastation of opioid drug use.

Today, increasing outreach and education set against the harsh reality of the statistics concerning these drug’s impact, is working towards alleviating the misinformation and false perceptions that surround this widespread issue.

A Startling Statistic

Automobile accidents are something that most people, from a young age, grow to fear and understand in terms of danger and the potential for fatalities. It is something that we realize can happen to anyone, an awareness that needs to extend to drug addiction, especially that of opioids.

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What is frightening, is that in some states, the number of automobile fatalities is actually dwarfed by the number of deaths attributed to drug overdoses. While deaths related to automobile accidents have been on the decline, deaths due to drug overdose, especially in connection with opioid overdose, have been climbing. According to reports gathered by the Los Angeles Times, fatalities from drug overdose exceeded those of traffic fatalities beginning in 2009, with this spike being largely attributed to the increase in opioid-related deaths.

The recent findings came to light when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their most current findings, from 2014, which chronicle the sweeping destruction that occurs at the hand of opioid drugs. To better frame the severity of this situation, within that year, the CDC notes more people died from an opioid overdose than any other year on record, a number that equates to a chilling 78 individuals dying as a result every day. In fact, out of all the overdose deaths within the U.S., they report that 6 out of 10 fatalities were related to an opioid.


According to the CDC, in 2014 47,055 individuals lost their lives to a fatal drug overdose. They continue to tell us that of this number, 61 percent, or 28,647, were accredited or related to opioids, including heroin. This is in comparison to the 32,675 deaths from motor vehicle accidents that occurred in the same year, as disclosed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Detroit Metro Times reported that in addition to Michigan, 35 other states and Washington D.C. saw this trend, with automobile-related deaths in 2014. You can view a graph here that compares the number of drug induced deaths in comparison to those caused from motor vehicle and firearms within the U.S.—on page ii of the DEA’s 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary, the most recent edition of this publication.

The Truth About Opioid Addiction

Opioids, whether they be illicit or prescription drugs that are used illicitly, have a great potential for abuse and addiction. Examples include heroin, or prescription painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine. What we’re seeing now is that a growing number of individuals are shifting their use from prescription painkillers to heroin. Why is this?

Experts theorize that the growing rates of opioid abuse and addiction are attributed to several things. First, the growing number of prescription painkillers that are being prescribed opens up more people to the potential of misuse that could lead to abuse and addiction, and also a greater possibility for drug diversion, thus allowing more people access to these addictive drugs. Second, as an individual continues to abuse these drugs, or falls prey to addiction, the greater compulsion and need drives them to seek other options. Due to this, the price or availability of prescription drugs may push them towards cheaper alternatives like heroin.

Heroin is highly addictive, and on its own has the potential to be life-threatening. What is more alarming is that heroin is commonly cut or laced with other drugs that can increase and vary the side effects, in many cases making the risk of a death from overdose more imminent. Two drugs that have been making headlines lately, especially within the state of Ohio, are fentanyl and carfentanil, both of which have been implicated in an alarming number of fatal overdoses.

A Catalyst For Change

Fortunately, statistics like these have encouraged officials, as well as countless individuals and addiction specialists, to take even more steps towards prevention, advocacy, education, and intervention as a way to quell the momentum that this epidemic has gained. One way they strive to do this is by increasing access to life-saving treatments, programs, and medications. Addiction Campuses is at the forefront of these pursuits.

Recently, on September 18th, the FED UP! Rally and March to Capitol Hill took place, a coalition that seeks to elicit a federal response to the growing opioid epidemic in a capacity that changes federal guidelines and provides greater access and funding to addiction treatment. Here, at Addiction Campuses, we are on the front lines of this fight, and in fact took part in this groundbreaking initiative.

In addition to this, in mid 2015, Addiction Campuses partnered with the Gloucester Police Department’s ANGEL Initiative, a progressive program that endeavors to alleviate the vast discrepancy between need and treatment. Program participants do this by interceding on behalf of an individual who comes to them for help in a manner that circumvents them from being charged for their drug use, and instead grants them access to immediate help. They then pair each person with an Angel, a volunteer who leads the person in need through the process of seeking and obtaining treatment in a compassionate, and nonjudgmental way.

Beyond this, more and more states and communities are enlisting the aid of a powerful drug that has the potential to save someone’s life when they are in the throes of an opioid overdose. Narcan, a drug that was approved by the FDA late last year, is a nasal spray that administers naloxone, a treatment that effectively and quickly halts or reverses the potentially fatal progression of an opioid overdose. A greater number of first responders and others are now able to employ this life-saving drug.

We Are Committed To Fighting This Epidemic And We Can Help You Find Hope

As heartbreaking as these numbers are, we hope that they give a greater sense of urgency to the stark reality that is opioid abuse and addiction, so that we can continue to work towards alleviating the problem and helping those who are in need of treatment. At Addiction Campuses, we employ a highly dedicated and compassionate staff committed to helping you or your loved one find the help they need to lead a healthier, drug-free life. Contact us today.

Los Angeles Times — Drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in U.S., data show
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Drug overdose deaths in the United States hit record numbers in 2014
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose Deaths — United States, 2000–2014
Detroit Metro Times — Michigan loses more citizens to overdoses than to car accidents

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