Drug Overdoses Last Year Took More American Lives Than Vietnam War

Written by Chloe Nicosia

The number of people who died last year in the US because of drug overdoses now exceeds the number of American lives lost in the Vietnam War

The number of people who died last year in the US because of drug overdoses now exceeds the number of American lives lost in the Vietnam War. Statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (1) reveal there were a total of 64,070 deaths caused by drug overdoses in 2016.

The devastation caused by the current opioid crisis claimed more lives last year than the number of Americans who lost their lives throughout the entire Vietnam War, which totaled 58,200.

The same statistics also highlight how drastic the nation’s epidemic has become when the number of fatal drug overdoses also exceeds the number of deaths caused by motor vehicle crashes, gun violence and suicides.

A Closer Look at US Drug Overdose Statistics

Drug overdose statistics released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (2) indicate that of the 64,070 deaths in 2016, 20,145 of them were caused by potent synthetic opioid drugs like fentanyl or fentanyl analogs.  

By comparison, the drug overdose statistics show that heroin was responsible for 15,466 deaths in 2016. A further 14,427 deaths were related to natural or semi-synthetic opioid drugs, such as morphine, oxycodone (OxyContin or Percocet) or hydrocodone (Zohydro ER or Vicodin).

The recent figures are 21% higher than the drug overdose deaths recorded in the previous year and showing signs of increasing throughout 2017.

Surprisingly, the number of drug overdose deaths caused by stimulant drugs in 2016, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, also show significant increases from the previous year. A total of 10,619 people lost their lives after overdosing on cocaine, and a further 7,663 people died from overdosing on methamphetamines.

While the stimulant medications were listed as the primary drug involved in the deaths, it’s important to note that poly-drug abuse, or taking more than one type of drug at the same time further increases the risk of accidental overdose. If the user is taking cocaine or methamphetamine without knowing it is combined with fentanyl, they could be taking potentially lethal doses.

What’s Behind the Drug Overdose Crisis?

Fentanyl is being distributed by drug dealers directly to users on the streets. However, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reports that fentanyl has also been found in seized amounts of heroin, but also in cocaine and even in marijuana. Manufacturing synthetic fentanyl is cheaper than making or importing heroin and cheaper than obtaining brand-name prescription opioid painkillers, leading many drug dealers to ‘cut’ or combine fentanyl with other drugs for sale on the street.

As fentanyl is between 50 and 100 times more potent than morphine and fentanyl analogs can be up to 1,000 times more potent, it only takes a relatively small amount to cause an overdose. If the user is unaware that they are taking fentanyl, the risk of accidental overdose is dramatically increased.

Fentanyl has also been identified in counterfeit pain pills manufactured illegally to look like other types of medications. Many people addicted to opioid drugs developed their addiction by taking prescription opioid painkillers. There is a misguided belief that prescription medications must somehow be safer as they were prescribed by a doctor.

However, obtaining prescription pain pills on the black market can be expensive. As a result, many users turn to heroin as a cheaper and more readily available alternative, while others attempt to source black market pain pills from street drug dealers.

The increasing demand on the black market from users for prescription opioid painkiller medications has given illegal manufacturers the impetus to make and distribute fake pills containing fentanyl.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.