Despite efforts over the past several decades to curb drug use among young people, the number of drug overdoses expected to rise by 2017 . According to research conducted by Columbia University, drug overdoses have increased for several consecutive years and are expected to continue their upward climb through 2017. In fact, researchers at the school estimate that more than 50,000 drug overdose deaths could occur in the United States annually by 2017.
Why the Increase?
A number of factors have played a part in seeing drug overdoses rise at such an alarming rate, with some of the most common being:
- Heroin availability
- Prescription drug abuse
- Younger drug users
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as recently as 2012 there were 41,000 accidental drug overdose deaths in the United States. Of those 41,000 more than 16,000 were the result of using prescription drugs such as Oxycontin and other pain relievers. In addition to this, over 6,000 drug overdose deaths were attributed to heroin use.
How Does the Epidemic Spread?
With Congress having committed more than $20 million to the CDC in an effort to help prevent the spread of drug overdoses, many people automatically assume money will solve the problem. However, while most experts say money always helps, it’s not necessarily the all-encompassing solution. Much like outbreaks of diseases such as measles or viruses, drug overdose deaths propagate and then spread often through social networks. According to a study conducted by Salima Darakjy for the National Center for Health Statistics, drug use is so rampant today that it should be thought of in terms of a contagious disease that spreads among individuals within a social network. She estimates that by 2017, more than 1.3 million lives will have been affected by drug overdoses.How to Solve the Problem
While there are many possible solutions to this problem being discussed, some measures that have been implemented have produced positive results in decreasing drug use and preventing overdoses. Some of the most effective include:
- Strict regulations on painkillers
- Much harder to “doctor shop”
- Selective legalization of marijuana
Many states have begun to closely monitor doctors who write what are considered to be abnormally large numbers of prescriptions to patients for painkillers or other drugs. In addition, technology is being developed to allow hospitals to link to one another and learn if a patient has visited numerous hospitals requesting similar medications. This has been done in response to data from the CDC stating that overdoses of prescription painkillers have become the leading reason for hospital visits, recently surpassing automobile accidents.
Despite these staggering statistics, there does appear to be some hope on the horizon. While the number of drug overdoses is expected to hit 50,000 by 2017, the number is expected to drop to just over 6,000 by 2035. Researchers at Columbia University attribute this to the enhanced prescription drug monitoring currently taking place, believing it will eventually have the desired impact on the problem. According to Dr. Guohua Li, Director of the Center for Injury Prevention, continued intervention will be needed to help the drug overdose epidemic from lasting much longer than anticipated.