November 3, 2017
"to elevate the condition of
men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the
paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered
start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln
Chairman's Note: The Social
Element of the Opioid Crisis
The United States has suffered
through opioid crises before but never like this.
First in the 1970s and then in
the 1990s, opioid-related deaths spiked across the country, but
the current crisis is bigger - much bigger.
In 2016, approximately 64,000
people died from drug overdoses, surpassing all-time death rates
for car crashes, HIV and guns. Two-thirds of those 64,000 deaths
were caused by opioids.
These are just some of the data
points our team at the Joint Economic Committee uncovered in its
latest Social Capitol Project report, "The Numbers Behind the
One reason for the severity of
this crisis, our research finds, is that this time, Americans can
buy opioids legally. In the 1960s, four out of five heroin
addicts began their addictions with heroin. But this time, three
out of four heroin addicts either obtained their opioids through
a doctor or someone else's prescription. Drugs obtained freely
from friends and family with legal prescriptions account for 40
percent of prescription opioids taken by opioid abusers.
Not only are opioids legal to buy
this time around, but most of the time they are also free for the
user - another person, usually the taxpayer, picks up the bill.
In 2010, patients paid just 19 percent of the cost of opioids
purchased in the United States. Insurance companies paid 25
percent, Medicare paid 26 percent, Medicaid paid 13 percent and
other government programs paid 16 percent.
These third-party payments helped
fuel an explosion in opioid prescriptions. By 2016, nearly 215
million prescriptions were filled for 61.8 million patients, or
nearly one-fifth of the population. Patients have been showered
with pain pills: In 2015, doctors prescribed almost enough
opioids in the median U.S. county to give each resident a
The fallout from this drug
explosion has been staggering. Opioid-related deaths have
quadrupled since 1999. Between 2015 and 2016 alone, deaths from
synthetic opioids more than doubled. Here in Utah, the opioid
death rate increased by 118 percent while suburban emergency
rooms saw a 171 percent increase in opioid-related visits.
Unfortunately, it appears the
worst of this crisis is yet to come. While abuse of prescription
opioids seems to be falling with a recent drop in opioid
prescription rates, deaths from prescription opioids continue to
rise. Users also appear to be switching to even stronger
narcotics. Early 2016 data suggest that fentanyl - a synthetic
drug 25 to 50 times more powerful than heroin - has surpassed
heroin in overdose deaths, skyrocketing 540 percent in three
These deaths have not been evenly
distributed. Some populations have been harder hit than others.
Those with no more than a high
school education make up just 40 percent of the population in the
United States, but in 2015, they accounted for 68 percent of
Never-married and divorced
Americans make up just 32 percent of the population, but in 2015,
they accounted for 71 percent of all opioid-related deaths.
And single men with just a high
school education have an opioid death rate almost three times
higher than single women with the same education.
Clearly, there is a strong social
component to our opioid crisis. Individuals who do not have a
strong family or good job appear to be much more at risk of
succumbing to addiction.
As we look for ways to solve this
crisis, we should keep these social components in mind. More
research is needed, but it does appear that loving families help
addicts recover from addiction. More importantly, families appear
to be a strong defense against becoming addicted in the first
This oped first appeared in the
How has the opioid epidemic
affected your community?
Click here to watch video
Issue in Focus: The Opioid Crisis
by the Numbers
In 2016, roughly 64,000 people
died from drug overdoses, and opioids accounted for nearly
two-thirds of those deaths. It is difficult to comprehend the
full scope and magnitude of the opioids crisis, its causes, and
its consequences-for families, communities, and workplaces. But
better understanding the challenges it poses is a necessary first
step to informed public policy.
Opioid overdose deaths continue
to rise at an alarming rate
In 2016, approximately 64,000
people died from drug overdoses, and opioid overdose deaths alone
accounted for nearly two-thirds of them.
Since 1999, opioid-related
deaths have quadrupled, and between 2015 and 2016, the number of
deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids more than
Opioid-related deaths are
shifting to younger demographic groups, typically white, single
or divorced, and with relatively less formal education
In 2015, of the population
age 25 and older, 61 percent of Americans were married, and
together with widowed Americans made up 68 percent of the
population, but accounted for only 28 percent of opioid overdose
deaths. In contrast, never-married and divorced Americans made up
about 32 percent of the population, but accounted for 71 percent
of all opioid overdose deaths.
In 2015, among those age 25
and older, 33 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher, but they
accounted for only 9 percent of all opioid overdose deaths. In
stark contrast, 40 percent had no more than a high school diploma
or equivalent, but they accounted for 68 percent of opioid
The oversupply and abuse of legal
prescription pain relievers is at the heart of the crisis
In the 1960s, four out of
five heroin addicts began with heroin, but by the 2000s three out
of four heroin addicts began either with prescription opioids
obtained legally through a doctor's prescription or illegally
from someone else's prescription. Drugs freely given by friends
and family constitute over 40 percent of prescription pain
relievers taken by abusers of those drugs.
In 2016, nearly 215 million
prescriptions for opioids were filled in the United States. Data
analyzed by the CDC show that 61.8 million patients received
those prescriptions, or 19.1 percent of the U.S. population.
In the median U.S. county,
physicians prescribed an amount of opioids in 2015 equivalent to
a nearly two-week supply of oxycodone for every resident.
A majority of opioid overdose
deaths are a result of combining opioids or combining them with
other central nervous system agents, including benzodiazepines
(often used to treat anxiety and sleep problems).
Illegally obtained opioids have
rapidly become a major problem
As prescription rates for
opioids have declined, there has been a growing threat from
illegal opioids, such as heroin and synthetic opioids like
fentanyl (which is 25 to 50 times more powerful than heroin).
Fentanyl is often disguised in a substance that resembles heroin
or in counterfeit prescription pills.
Fentanyl seizures by law
enforcement increased by a factor of six between 2014 and 2016.
Hospitalization for opioids abuse
has also risen across geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic
Heroin use and opioid
prescription misuse resulting in emergency room visits have been
rising in many states and their major metropolitan areas.
As with prescribing rates,
opioid-related inpatient hospital stays are concentrated in
Appalachia, the West, and New England.
In 2014, those aged 25-64 had
the highest rates of inpatient stays, and lower income
individuals and those in the large metropolitan areas had higher
rates of stays than other groups from 2005-2014.
The opioid crisis will affect the
next generation for years to come
Reports of young children
overwhelming foster care systems are pouring out of states like
Ohio, which since 2010 have witnessed an increase of nearly
one-fifth in the number of children placed with relatives or in
Between 2009 and 2014, the
percent of children nationwide with parental alcohol or drug use
as a factor in out-of-home placement rose from 29.4 percent to
New England and the South
have the highest rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) per
1,000 hospital births. In 2013, according to a CDC study, NAS
incidence per 1,000 hospital births was highest in Vermont (33.3)
and West Virginia (33.4). The recent rise in NAS has been fueled
by opioid addiction.
361A Russell Senate
Salt Lake City
Wallace F. Bennett
125 South State,
Salt Lake City, UT
Office of Senator
Michael S. Lee
285 West Tabernacle,
St. George, UT 84770
This message was intended for: xxx
You were added to the system October 2, 2015.
For more information please follow the URL below:
Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out:
To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings
with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.