A recent report shows fatal overdoses of opioids are claiming more lives in Virginia than guns or vehicles. According to a report from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), the epidemic is on the rise with no sign of changing pace.
The data at this point is subject to change, but the current report shows that the opioid death toll in the state of Virginia will surpass the recorded death rate in 2016. The VDH reports that in the first quarter of 2017, 306 deaths were the result of prescription painkillers and illicit street opioids, making it the top cause of unnatural or accidental deaths in Virginia.
Vehicle and gun fatalities were surpassed by the drug problem officials are calling an epidemic. A public health emergency was declared in the state in November 2016, citing the following statistics:
- Emergency department visits for heroin overdose for January-September 2016 increased 89% compared to the same nine-month period in 2015.
- The total number of fatal drug overdoses in Virginia during the first half of 2016 has increased 35% when compared to the same time period in 2015.
- Fatal drug overdoses became the number one method of unnatural death in 2013.
- The rate of reported cases of Hepatitis C (HCV) increased 28% between 2010 and 2015, with the primary risk factor being injection drug use.
Fentanyl is being listed as a major driver of the state opioid crisis, as Fentanyl deaths spiked 176 percent over 2015 and 2016. In 2017, Fentanyl-related deaths number 190, up from 145 at this time last year, reports indicate.
The opioid crisis in the United States has become so bad, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency on Aug. 10. Making the announcement, the president said the following:
“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency. It’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis. We’re going to draw it up, and we’re going to make it a national emergency.
“It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had. You know when I was growing up they had the LSD and they had certain generations of drugs. There’s never been anything like what’s happened to this country over the last four or five years. And I have to say this in all fairness, this is a worldwide problem, not just a United States problem. This is happening worldwide. But this is a national emergency, and we are drawing documents now to so attest.”
Responding to the announcement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement in which he said:
“I applaud President Trump for his leadership in taking this drastic and necessary measure to confront an opioid crisis that is devastating communities around the country and ripping families apart.
“Just last week the Department of Justice announced its new Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit and we continue to follow the President’s lead and use every tool we have to combat this deadly crisis.”
In his comments, Sessions noted that the epidemic was responsible for 60,000 deaths in 2016 and that the nation has never seen overdose deaths near these numbers.
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