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Opiate Use and Overdose Statistics in 2023

During 2019 and 2021,  89,000 total overdose deaths and 74,474 opioid-involved overdose deaths were reported across 31 states. [1]

From the years 2010 to 2017 we saw a sustained multi year increase in overdose deaths involving opioids.  Opiate related deaths peaked at the beginning of 2017 with approximately 1300 cases per week or 70,000 deaths per year. [2]

 In 2018 we saw our first noticeable decrease in opiate deaths averaging just under 800 deaths per week, but since COVID-19 we have steadily returned to truly staggering numbers topping 2,000 deaths per week! 

100,000+ people will likely die this year from drug overdoses and these numbers may continue worsening if swift community action isn’t taken to equip our families, friends, co-workers, loved ones, neighbors, brothers and sisters with the information and resources to save their lives. 

Opioids—mainly synthetic opioids (other than methadone)—are currently the main driver of drug overdose deaths. 82.3% of opioid-involved overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids.

Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are lab created painkillers used during surgery and extreme pain management. While there are legitimate uses for fentanyl, clandestine laboratories in Mexico, China, and elsewhere have produced and flooded the US markets with cheap fentanyl. 

The Chicago Drug Enforcement Administration announced the seizure of 804,000 fake prescription fentanyl pills and 549 pounds of fentanyl powder in 2022. The DEA estimates this equals 18.3 million doses. [3] Below are pictures of counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl confiscated by the DEA. 

Fentanyl was initially used by drug dealers to increase heroin profits and has transformed the underground opiate market, overshadowing or even replacing existing heroin markets with extremely deadly and addictive chemicals that can hardly be considered recreational drugs.  

Overdose by fentanyl is extremely difficult for emergency medical personnel to combat. Lifesaving Narcan sprays are administered to reverse the respiratory depression caused by opiates but a fentanyl overdose may often require multiple Narcan intranasal injections before a patient recovers consciousness. 

The FDA agreed this week to continue expanding access to Narcan – to also include over the counter non-prescription availability. Narcan is recommended for any at risk communities as a last resort-life saving measure in the event of an opioid overdose.  [4] 

For the continued recovery and or treatment for those suffering from chronic opioid abuse, evidence shows that methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone all reduce opioid use and opioid use disorder-related symptoms. They also have been shown to help decrease risk of infectious disease transmission as well as antisocial behavior that is associated with drug use.

Buprenorphine was first approved in 2002 for the treatment of opioid use  disorders with a high success rate. Buprenorphine comes in two forms (Probuphine®, Sublocade™, Bunavail®) and in combination with the opioid receptor antagonist naloxone (Suboxone®, Zubsolv®). [5]

Naltrexone is another drug used to treat opioid use disorder in a daily pill form or extended-release injectable. Naltrexone is administered once monthly, which removes the need for daily dosing. While this formulation is the newest form of medication for opioid use disorder, studies have found Naltrexone to be safe and effective. [6] [7]

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6. Krupitsky E, Nunes EV, Ling W, Gastfriend DR, Memisoglu A, Silverman BL. Injectable extended-release naltrexone (XR-NTX) for opioid dependence: long-term safety and effectiveness. Addict Abingdon Engl. 2013;108(9):1628-1637. doi:10.1111/add.12208.

7. Minozzi S, Amato L, Vecchi S, Davoli M, Kirchmayer U, Verster A. Oral naltrexone maintenance treatment for opioid dependence. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(4):CD001333. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001333.pub4.