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Drug Deaths Skyrocket to Record High In the U.S. As Opioid Epidemic Rages On

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The rate at which people are dying from opioid-related overdoses is on a dramatic uptick. And with the number of cases for 2016 still being verified, things may be even worse than we thought.

The growing deadliness of this epidemic comes from the influx of fentanyl and similar drugs making their way to the American public. In fact, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50 years old.

According to the CDC, fentanyl is a pharmaceutical synthetic opioid pain reliever approved for treating severe pain, typically reserved for advanced cancer patients. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. In most cases of fentanyl-related overdoses, the drug was illegally manufactured.

The continuing ineffectiveness of these OD recovery drugs can be directly attributed the increasing potency of opioids. Carfentanil, a newcomer to the epidemic, is an elephant tranquilizer with a potency 5,000 times that of heroin.

The CDC reports the number of overdose fatalities in the U.S. nearly tripled between 1999 and 2015, adding the single greatest increase was among adults between the ages of 55 and 64. The study also uncovered that the state's most critically affected were West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky, and Ohio.

Ohio, in particular, has suffered some of the worst of the epidemic, so much so that it has filed a lawsuit against five drug companies for allegedly misleading doctors and the public about the probability of opioid addiction and overdose. West Virginia filed its own lawsuit against drug manufacturers and reached a settlement for an eight-figure sum, while other states are also pursuing litigation.

Although many people turn to street dealers and traffickers for their fix, many overdose victims were people who at one point obtained legal opioid prescriptions. Another CDC-funded study found that 12 states had more opioid prescriptions than actual people in 2012. Frontline reported high drug deaths in Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, South Carolina, and Ohio.

According to another CDC report, a person can form an addiction to certain potent opioids after only five days of use. Studies show that after receiving long-term doses of potent opioid drugs, many patients then turn to the illegal market to feed their new addiction -- a market that's steadily increasing in availability, as border agents warn of increasing amounts of drugs like fentanyl pouring across the U.S.-Mexico border. 

STAT-Harvard poll shows many Americans blame doctors who push these hazardous doses as the driver behind addictions and overdoses. 

As this drug crisis drags on and on, experts are finding more and more links to prescription drugs as the gateways to addiction. Lawmakers will have to act fast in finding legislation to curb this already disastrous emergency.

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