International Overdose Awareness is here to remind us, sadly, that we live amidst an epidemic of overdosing. Falling each year on August 31st, International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event whose purpose is to raise awareness of overdosing and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.

Activities will be held in many different countries including Australia, Canada, France, Ghana, India, Ireland, Italy, Nepal, New Zealand, Romania, United Kingdom, and the USA. Here in America, many events are taking place in many different states. The day spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.

Thousands of people die each year from drug overdose. They come from all walks of life – and many are men. Indeed, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that men are more likely than women to use almost all types of illicit drugs, and illicit drug use is more likely to result in emergency department visits or overdose deaths for men than for women. “Illicit” refers to the use of illegal drugs, including marijuana (according to federal law) and misuse of prescription drugs. For most age groups, men have higher rates of use or dependence on illicit drugs and alcohol than women do.

The CDC report on deadly overdosing deaths from 1999-2016 reveals many sobering facts.

  • In 2016, there were more than 63,600 drug overdose deaths in the United States.
  • The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths in 2016 (19.8 per 100,000) was 21% higher than the rate in 2015 (16.3).
  • Among persons aged 15 and over, adults aged 25–34, 35–44, and 45–54 had the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in 2016 at around 35 per 100,000.
  • West Virginia (52.0 per 100,000), Ohio (39.1), New Hampshire (39.0), the District of Columbia (38.8), and Pennsylvania (37.9) had the highest observed age-adjusted drug overdose death rates in 2016.
  • The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than Buprenorphine/Naltrexone (drugs such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol) doubled between 2015 and 2016, from 3.1 to 6.2 per 100,000.

In 2016, the age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths in the United States was more than three times the rate in 1999.

  • In 2016, there were more than 63,600 drug overdose deaths in the United States
  • The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths increased from 6.1 per 100,000 standard population in 1999 to 19.8 in 2016. The rate increased on average by 10% per year from 1999 to 2006, by 3% per year from 2006 to 2014, and by 18% per year from 2014 to 2016.
  • Rates were significantly higher for males than females. For males, the rate increased from 8.2 in 1999 to 26.2 in 2016. For females, the rate increased from 3.9 in 1999 to 13.4 in 2016.

Among persons aged 15 and over, adults aged 25–34, 35–44, and 45–54 had the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in 2016.

  • The rates of drug overdose deaths increased from 1999 to 2016 for all age groups studied.
  • Rates in 2016 were highest for persons aged 25–34 (34.6 per 100,000), 35–44 (35.0), and 45–54 (34.5).
  • From 2015 to 2016, the greatest percentage increase in the drug overdose death rates occurred among adults aged 15–24, 25–34, and 35–44 with increases of 28%, 29%, and 24%, respectively.
  • From 2015 to 2016, the drug overdose death rates for adults aged 45–54, 55–64, and 65 and over increased by 15%, 17%, and 7% respectively.
  • 22 states and the District of Columbia had drug overdose death rates that were higher than the national rate (19.8 per 100,000); 5 states had rates that were comparable to the national rate; 23 states had lower rates.
  • West Virginia (52.0), Ohio (39.1), New Hampshire (39.0), and Pennsylvania (37.9) were the four states with the highest observed age-adjusted drug overdose death rates. The District of Columbia had a rate of 38.8 per 100,000.
  • Iowa (10.6), North Dakota (10.6), Texas (10.1), South Dakota (8.4), and Nebraska (6.4) were the five states with the lowest observed age-adjusted drug overdose death rates.

The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than Buprenorphine/Naltrexone doubled from 2015 to 2016.

  • The rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than Buprenorphine/Naltrexone, which includes drugs such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol, increased from 0.3 per 100,000 in 1999 to 1.0 in 2013, 1.8 in 2014, 3.1 in 2015, and 6.2 in 2016. The rate increased on average by 18% per year from 1999 to 2006, did not statistically change from 2006 to 2013, then increased by 88% per year from 2013 to 2016.
  • The rate of drug overdose deaths involving heroin increased from 0.7 in 1999 to 1.0 in 2010, to 4.9 in 2016. The rate was steady from 1999 to 2005, then increased on average by 10% per year from 2005 to 2010, by 33% per year from 2010 to 2014, and by 19% from 2014 to 2016.
  • The rate of drug overdose deaths involving natural and semisynthetic opioids, which include drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, increased from 1.0 in 1999 to 4.4 in 2016. The rate increased on average by 13% per year from 1999 to 2009 and by 3% per year from 2009 to 2016.
  • The rate of drug overdose deaths involving Buprenorphine/Naltrexone increased from 0.3 in 1999 to 1.8 in 2006, then declined to 1.0 in 2016.

The pattern of drugs involved in drug overdose deaths has changed in recent years. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than Buprenorphine/Naltrexone (drugs such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol) doubled in a single year from 3.1 per 100,000 in 2015 to 6.2 in 2016. Rates of drug overdose deaths involving heroin increased from 4.1 in 2015 to 4.9 in 2016. Rates of drug overdose deaths involving natural and semisynthetic opioids increased from 3.9 in 2015 to 4.4 in 2016.

Don’t make this year’s International Overdose Awareness Day pass without your acknowledgment, even in the smallest way. You can show your support by wearing a silver badge or a purple wristband that are symbols of awareness of overdose and its effects.  There are events also happening right here in Orange County, so don’t hesitate to get involved and show your support and love.