President Donald Trump described them as America’s “forgotten people,” the less-educated white, middle-aged Americans. This group of individuals, together with the baby boomers and the so-called Generation X are amongst the most vulnerable to heroin and prescription drug abuse. Several studies indicate that the number of drug overdose deaths amongst baby boomers, Generation X, and less-educated white Americans has jumped in recent years.
Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in late February showed that the age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. was more than 2.5 times in 2015 than the rate in 1999. The CDC claimed that the spike in the number of drug overdose deaths was tied in to the drop in the price of heroin along with easier access to prescription drugs.
In 1999, the rate of drug overdose was estimated at 6.1 per 100,000. It jumped to 16.3 per 100,000 in 2015 or an increase of 5.5% annually. From 1999 to 2006, the number increased by 10% and then another 3% from 2006 to 2013 before jumping again by 9% per year from 2013 to 2015 as shown in government data.
“The pattern of drugs involved in drug overdose deaths also has changed in recent years,” according to an official in the CDC report. “In 2010, 29% of drug overdose deaths involved natural and semisynthetic opioids and 12% involved methadone. In 2015, the percentage of drug overdose deaths involving these drugs decreased to 24% and 6%, respectively. In contrast, drug overdose deaths involving heroin increased from 8% in 2010 to 25% in 2015. Increases were also seen in drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, from 8% in 2010 to 18% in 2015.”
Brady Granier, President, CEO and Director of BioCorRx, Inc. (BICX) expressed concern over the growing drug abuse problem in the U.S. He agrees with the government’s opinion that deaths from drug overdose is one of the major biggest public health burdens in the country. The CDC reported that the total number of drug overdose deaths totaled 47,055 in 2014.
Granier commented, “The best way to combat this problem is through prevention, but this will take a collaborative effort between parents, educators, governments, not for profits, law enforcement agencies and more. Then on the other side, there’s treatment and recovery. Treatment options are evolving to address that side of the problem especially in the field of medication-assisted treatment. We are seeing some potentially very effective new tools on the horizon that can help people more efficiently in the areas detox and relapse prevention.”
Pain Medication Now Cheaper Than Other Illegal Drugs
The drop in the price of pain medications is one of the leading causes why many Americans are misusing the drug and becoming drug addicts, according to the CDC report.
“Since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. nearly quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report,” according to the CDC. They also said that statistically, the number of deaths from prescription opioids have risen more than 400% over the last 15 years. This includes abuse of medications like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone.
A similar study by researchers at the Princeton University has confirmed that the so-called forgotten people of America are more susceptible to drug overdose deaths due to drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis.
The Princeton study concluded, “Those with less education saw the most marked increases. Rising midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics were paralleled by increases in midlife morbidity.”
America’s War on Drugs
The year 2016 was a banner year for the U.S. Coast Guard’s fight against drug trafficking with a record illegal drug haul.
The Coast Guard seized more than 416,000 pounds of cocaine with a street value estimated at $ 5.6 billion by the end of October 2016. The catch was the largest made by the Coast Guard in a single year of its history, covering 263 operations spanning the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern Pacific Ocean.
That year, the Coast Guard also arrested 585 suspected drug smugglers, 465 of whom were repatriated to the U.S. mainland to face charges.
However, America’s “War on Drugs” netted an estimated 1.25 million individuals arrested in the U.S. in 2015 for possession of illegal drugs. The war on drugs also resulted in unparalleled hostility and instability in drug-producing nations, including Mexico, Colombia, etc. Sadly, illegal drugs still proliferate the streets despite the billions of dollars spent by the Federal government in the fight against illegal drugs.
The stigma associated with drug addiction is preventing most from seeking treatment. A study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health has found that only 14% of drug dependents will seek treatment. A majority of drug addicts find it difficult to accept that they are addicted to an illegal substance which is typically the first step in the treatment process.
Researchers said that the stigma attached to being labeled a drug addict has a profound impact in the fight against addiction as it prevents treatment resources from reaching a bigger number of people who needs them and it discourages drug dependent individuals from seeking treatment at all.
However, Granier said there are several programs available to rehabilitate those suffering from addiction while preventing them from relapsing BioCoRrx offers its BioCorRx® Recovery Program, a non-addictive, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program used to treat both alcohol and opioid addictions to independent treatment providers across the U.S..
The program uses naltrexone in an implantable form which can block cravings and prevent relapse for several months while the patient goes through their proprietary counseling program that was written by addiction experts specifically for those receiving long term naltrexone treatment. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks some of the effects of alcohol and opioids and has been FDA approved in the oral and injectable form for many years. The program also includes 12 months of peer recovery support to add another layer of support for the patient and family while also tracking results using an algorithmic software program.
Big pharmaceutical companies, like Insys Therapeutics Inc. (INSY), Pfizer Inc. (PFE), Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc. (AMPH), Mylan N.V. (MYL), Opiant Technologies Inc. (OPNT), Adapt Pharma Ltd., Kaleo Pharmaceuticals, Alkermes (ALKS), are also offering their own solutions against the drug menace.
One of the first-line treatments for opioid abuse, includes Reckitt Benckiser Group’s (RB), buprenorphine, which is being marketed under the Suboxone brand name. But Suboxone is facing controversies over alleged illegal trade practice and the drug itself is suspected of causing addiction amongst its patients.
Another first-line treatment is naloxone, sold under the brand name NARCAN. Narcan NARCAN is said to be an effective treatment to reverse opioid overdose if treatment is administered in time. However, the price of NARCAN has spiked tremendously over the past month making the drug very expensive.
A third option is naltrexone, a non-addictive medication that is found to be an effective medication in the fight against opioid abuse, as well as alcoholism. Alkermes, a $ 8.39 billion pharmaceutical company, is currently selling naltrexone under its Vivitrol brand.
Granier added that BioCoRrx is in the preclinical stage of developing its own injectable naltrexone. He said, “BICX101 is being developed to provide another option to patients and doctors in the fight against addiction. Our goal is to deliver a product in a much smaller volume, with a smaller needle, and therefore presumably, less discomfort.” He added that the product should not require refrigeration and may also be able to be given subcutaneously instead of in the buttocks.
Number of Drug Overdose Deaths to Decline
While the statistics on the drug overdose deaths is a cause for alarm, health authorities and researchers are predicting that the volume of drug overdoses will decline soon. They cited better law enforcement practices and more effective monitoring of prescription drugs should help reduce the drug overdose cases and eventually the number of deaths associated with it.
Scientists at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health estimated that the number of deaths from drug overdose will peak at 50,000 this year declining to “a non-epidemic state” of 6,000 deaths by 2035.
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