CDC Grossly Underreporting Opioid Deaths

opioid overdose

Fact: the opioid problem is one of the biggest scourges of our current society.

Fact: the opioid problem continues to get worse every year.

Right now, we’re in the midst of the worst drug epidemic in recorded history. It’s so bad, that more people died as a result of a drug overdose last year than the total number of Americans killed during the Vietnam War. Opioids now kill more people than gun homicides and car accidents and it’s even been regarded as being worse than the AIDS crisis. It’s bad out there and now is a scarier time than ever to be a drug user. You seem to never know what you’re going to get when you go out and buy heroin, cocaine, or meth. You might get a bag of what you want, or you might get a bag full of fentanyl. Even pills aren’t safe because dealers have been able to buy pill presses off internet vendors like Ebay and Amazon and concoct their own medications. Each year, the number of people overdosing on opioids increases, causing the CDC to release staggering statistics. But, to make matters even worse, the epidemic’s death toll is a lot grimmer that we first suspected, since the government has been grossly understating opioid deaths.

Due to irregular reporting practices by local coroners, many autopsies don’t record a specific drug as being the cause of a fatal overdose, so if opioids aren’t reported, the death isn’t considered a bonifide opioid-related death. The CDC gets its information from more than 3000 coroner’s offices around the U.S. Since they work independently from each other and the federal government, there’s not a lot of regulation put into how they report fatal overdoses, thus bringing discrepancies to their stated numbers. Christopher Ruhm, a professor at the University of Virginia saw that a lot of coroners don’t list specific drugs in certain overdose cases, so he studied the records of those who did record specific drugs in regard to overdoses and saw that the reported numbers were quite wrong from the actual data. According to his research, if all coroners correctly reported opioid overdoses resulting in death, the death toll would be way higher, bringing the CDC’s report for 2016 from 42,249 overdoses to 49,562.

Thankfully, Ruhm’s research is bringing to light the real gravity of our current situation. The opioid epidemic was bad enough with the data we had. Now that we’ve been shown that the data is incorrect and, in fact, the crisis is worse than we suspected, I think a lot of people will wake up and see this problem for what it really is. And what it really is, is bad, bad, bad. More people need to be gotten into long-term treatment rather than staying on MAT drugs, doing out-patient, or chronically failing 12-step programs. There is real help out there and no one, and I mean NO ONE needs to become a statistic.

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Peggy Cote, RN

Peggy Cote is a registered nurse with over 40 years of experience in the medical and addiction field. Her practice has also focused on holistic and naturopathic healthcare, looking toward natural solutions first before allopathic interventions. Peggy has devoted her career to helping people better themselves, their health, and their lives. Connect with Peggy on LinkedIn.