A new set of interactive graphics developed by the Visual Capitalist shows that drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, above even car accidents and firearms.
They dramatize that the United States is home to the highest percentage of drug-related deaths in world. Unless this trend is reversed, the opioid epidemic is projected to claim nearly 500,000 American lives over the next decade.
However, deaths are just the tip of the iceberg. In 2017, there were more than 11 million “opioid misusers” in the United States – equal to the entire population of Ohio. The ripple effects are so widespread that, according to a Brookings report, the increase in opioid prescriptions from 1999 to 2015 could account for about 20 percent of the decline in men’s labor force participation during the same period.
The cost of opioid abuse ranges from $10,000 to $20,000 in annual medical costs per person. No wonder the opioid addiction epidemic has been declared a national public health emergency. However, the majority of public attention and resources is focused on law enforcement and treatment, with energy around prevention and recovery.
The likelihood of relapse is higher for opioids than for any other drug addiction, with one study reporting that as many as 91 percent of those in recovery will experience a relapse. However, on a more promising note, the US Surgeon General points to evidence suggesting that approximately 50 percent of adults who once met the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder – or about 25 million people – are currently in stable remission (one year or longer).
The key is this: Achieving sustainable recovery from a substance use disorder often requires several years and multiple episodes of treatment, as well as long-term, multifaceted support, support which is coming from some surprising sources.