Opioid Epidemic Forecast:
Half a Million Americans could be Killed in the Next 10 Years

“Drug overdoses already kill more Americans
under age 50 than anything else.”

A new article released by STAT shines a harsh light on the reality of the opioid epidemic in America. Drug overdoses already kill more Americans under age 50 than anything else. There are now nearly 100 deaths each day from opioids—that number could spike up to 250 deaths a day, per the worst-case scenario put forth by STAT’s expert panel.

In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that we lost 47,055 lives to drug overdoses. Of those, 61% or 28,647 deaths were due to just one type of drug—opioids.

And apparently, our losses to opioids are only going to get worse, before they get better. How much worse? That depends totally on the actions taken by doctors, lawmakers, parents, teachers, coalitions and other professionals and community members in the next ten years.

What Are Opioids?

What Are Opioids?

Opioids is a term used for the entire family of opiate drugs, including natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic. At one time, the term opiates was used to refer to drugs derived from the poppy plant, such as opium, morphine, and heroin; and opioids was used to refer to the synthetic or semi-synthetic version.

The list of opioid drugs includes:

  • Heroin
  • Buprenorphine (Subxone, Subutex)
  • Codeine (only available in generic form)
  • Fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora)
  • Hydrocodone (Hysingla ER, Zohydro ER)
  • Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)
  • Morphine (Astramorph, Avinza, Kadian, MS Contin, Ora-Morph SR)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Oxecta, Roxicodone)
  • Oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet, Endocet, Roxicet)
  • Oxycodone and naloxone (Targiniq ER)

The Forecast

2027 Opioid Deaths Forecast

This forecast was assembled by Stat, a health and medicine journalism company. They consulted with experts on health at ten universities, along with 40 politicians and patient advocates and they collected input from the top levels of U.S. government. Their conclusion was that the wrong approach to curtailing the use of and addiction to opioids could result in the loss of 500,000 Americans over the next ten years.

That’s the really, really bad news. There is slightly better news and that’s the most positive place to focus.

There are ten separate forecasts of what our future opioid deaths could be, each year from now until 2027. Each of these forecasts is accompanied by a brief statement of the major actions that, if implemented, would result in that forecast.

For example, the worst-case forecast of 93,600 deaths in 2027 would be the result of changing nothing so that the increases continue at the same rate they have in the last several years. But the best-case scenario of just 21,300 deaths in 2027 would be the expected outcome if painkiller prescribing practices changed significantly, if states required doctors to ensure that no patient was getting too many pills from too many practitioners, and if health insurance companies reformed their coverage to allow far more people access to recovery programs.

You can review every one of the ten scenarios here.

The Bottom Line

We can save so many of these lives. Just 15 years ago, we were only losing a little over 20,000 people. Certain practices and products and ways of thinking changed since then and they can be changed back. It may not be easy. Every single person in this country can get involved, even if just by changing his own ideas.

  • Long periods of time taking painkillers is not necessary in most cases. One can ask his doctor to prescribe the minimum after a tooth extraction or surgery. Just by asking for the smallest reasonable number of pills, you might influence your doctor’s viewpoint.
  • One can monitor children’s use of painkillers after an injury—young athletes are particularly vulnerable to overuse of opioids. One can also lock up medications when they are not actually in the process of being consumed.
  • Parents should pay attention to the drug or alcohol use of teens or even younger children. A little alcohol or pot use at a young age is NOT “harmless”—it is many people’s first steps on the road to drug abuse and addiction.
  • It’s also possible to get educated on the effects of different drugs and communicate these lessons to children. Narconon can help you with this task. Here are some articles to help you learn about different kinds of drugs.
A group of friends hug each other.

You can help turn the tide within your own family, your circle of contacts and your community. If you need to help someone break free from the drugs that are ruining his (or her) life, contact us immediately. Our program has a fifty-year history of helping the addicted learn how to live a productive, sober life. And our program is 100% drug-free.

Call today to learn more: 1-800-775-8750. 

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Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.