The U.S. has had its deadliest year to date for fatal drug overdoses, which claimed 52,404 lives in 2015, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
One-third of patients surveyed said they felt like they were addicted or physically dependent on their prescription opioids, but 50 percent of family members of prescription opioid users surveyed said they suspected an addiction.
Use of prescription painkillers is now more widespread in the U.S. than tobacco use. Many people who overdose on substances like heroin began with a dependence on prescription painkillers, but switched after building high tolerances that made them too expensive.
The DEA warns that even heroin users with extremely high tolerances are more likely to have a fatal overdose due to the presence of carfentanil and fentanyl.
“The presence of carfentanil in illicit U.S. drug markets is cause for concern, as the relative strength of this drug could lead to an increase in overdoses and overdose-related deaths, even among opioid-tolerant users,” according to a DEA report.
“Public health officials maintain that fentanyl is contributing to most of this increase [overdoses]. Fentanyl is sometimes added to heroin batches, or mixed with other adulterants and sold as counterfeit heroin, unknown to the user.”
If you feel like doing some extra reading, I invite you to check out an article I did last month.