A U.S. News & World Report review of two decades’ worth of data on opioid-related overdose deaths gives a long-range view of the opioid epidemic in America. The study, which analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1999 to the present, shows death rates rose steadily from 1999-2006, slowed from 2007 to 2014, and then began to skyrocket.
The U.S. News & World Report article points to the advent of OxyContin in the late 1990s for the early rise in opioid related deaths. While deaths continued to climb through the early 2000s, they did so more slowly from 2007-2014, when “doctors began limiting access to legally prescribed opioids.” Overdose deaths jumped significantly in 2014, when opioid users started turning to fentanyl and heroin. By 2017, opioid-related deaths had hit an all-time high of 14.9 per 100,000 people—up from about 4 per 100,000 in 1999.
According to the article, understanding the long-term data is important for developing and implementing effective prevention and treatment efforts.
“Only when we look at the data over time can we learn what is or isn’t working and which of the opioid-focused dollars, task forces and agencies are actually saving lives, ” said Rocco Perla, co-founder of new nonprofit The Health Initiative, who helped analyze the data.