The abuse of opioids in the United States isn’t just a problem. As the Department of Health and Human Services states on its website, it’s an epidemic. And a new and highly lethal combination of opioids called “gray death” is the latest danger to emerge.
Opioids have been heavily scrutinized in the past several years. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, presented eye-opening statistics for the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control in May 2014. A few of the notable points from her testimony:
- “It is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide, with an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012, and an estimated 467,000 addicted to heroin. The consequences of this abuse have been devastating and are on the rise.”
- “The number of prescriptions for opioids (like hydrocodone and oxycodone products) have escalated from around 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013, with the United States their biggest consumer globally, accounting for almost 100 percent of the world total for hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin) and 81 percent for oxycodone (e.g., Percocet).”
- “… The estimated number of emergency department visits involving nonmedical use of opioid analgesics increased from 144,600 in 2004 to 305,900 in 2008. … Overdose deaths due to prescription opioid pain relievers have more than tripled in the past 20 years, escalating to 16,651 deaths in the United States in 2010.”