70,000 Overdose Deaths Went Unreported Since 1999: It’s Worse Than We Thought

opioid crisis is worse than we thought

As if the opioid crisis wasn’t bad enough already as it is, it sort of adds insult to injury when I hear that it’s actually worse than we thought. It’s unimaginable that the current state of affairs could possibly be any worse than it is. I’ve had numerous people I went to high school with die from fatal overdoses over the years, which is just one high school, in one small town in Massachusetts, and to me, it seems like just a drop in the pond. People are dying from opioids in every single town in the United States. Parents are burying their kids, and it seriously needs to stop. Opioids are now considered deadlier than gun homicides, have taken more lives than both World Wars combined, and even surpassed the body count from the AIDS epidemic. And as bad as all that is, it just got worse thanks to recently released data.

From 1999 to 2015, nearly 70,000 fatal overdoses attributed to opioid intoxication seemed to have gone completely unreported. A recent study by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health found that irregular reporting practices and varying standards for reporting overdoses by coroners and medical examiners has caused a major underestimation of how bad this crisis really is. The State of Pennsylvania apparently had the most unreported deaths, topping more than 10,000. With those unreported deaths now figured into the overall body count, Pennsylvania has seen an estimated 20,521.

The main thing that caused this massive unreporting of opioid-related deaths was the highly varying standards for reporting drug overdoses. Some coroners will note specifically what drugs were found in a person’s system at the time of death and others won’t. Sometimes, even if drugs were found, coroners don’t always specify which drugs may have been involved in a person’s death, thus causing a gross negligence when it comes to accurately reporting why a person died or how they overdosed. Pennsylvania, along with five other states, didn’t specify which drugs contributed to a person’s demise in more than 35% of the overdoses throughout the state that landed in the coroner’s office.

Besides just skewing the numbers nationwide and misleading the public as far as how bad the problem really is, proper resources aren’t able to be allotted and designated to help. Drug rehab services, state and federal funding, and community services aren’t able to be made available if there is inaccurate reporting of the drug problem. The thing is, if we are made aware of how the dire of a situation our country is really in, we can then mobilize and do something about it. The fight isn’t over, it’s just beginning. And the more information and statistics we have, the better our chances are of defeating this thing. No one else has to die. No other family has to suffer. Let’s do this!

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Jason Good

Jason has been working in the field of addiction and recovery for over 10 years. Having been an addict himself he brings real-word experience to the table when helping addicts and their families, while also offering a first-person perspective to the current drug crisis. Jason is passionate about educating the public about what’s currently going on in our society, and thankfully, offers practical solutions. Jason is also the co-host of The Addiction Podcast—Point of No Return. You can follow Jason on Google+, Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.