CDC: Drug overdose deaths at all-time high in U.S.

CDC says there were more than 47,000 overdose deaths in 2014

New numbers from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows drug overdose deaths across the nation are at an all-time high.

Last year, more than 47,000 people died from a drug overdose in the United States. According to the CDC, that’s 1.5 times greater than the number of people killed in car crashes last year.

Although the fight against drugs continues, local officials said it’s hard to keep up.

“I think it’s going to continue to be a problem in our nation for a number of years if not decades,” said Al Bliss, a health educator at La Crosse County Health and Human Services.

It’s a battle that seems to have no end in sight.

“You continue to see the opioid, heroin and prescription drug overdose deaths climb,” said Bliss.

“There has been a tripling of heroin deaths between 2007 to 2014 to overdose but a quadrupling of prescription opioid deaths over the same span of time,” said Dr. William Bucknam with Gundersen Health System

The CDC shows overdose deaths from prescription drugs and heroin continues to be the leading cause of unintentional death in America rising 14 percent from 2013 to 2014.

“I certainly am not surprised,” said Bucknam.

There are three different types of opioids: natural, semi-synthetic and synthetic.

“Opioid is a natural occurring synthetic derived directly from the seed bulb of the poppy seed plant,” said Bucknam.

Deaths from natural opiates jumped 10 percent in 2013 to 2014.

“(Those include) natural morphine, codeine and thebaine,” said Bucknam.

Semisynthetic pain killers also increased by 10 percent.

“Prescription drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, Vicodin. Those are man-made but are derived from the poppy seeds or morphine,” said Bliss.

However, the biggest increase in deaths was from synthetic opioids, which went up 80 percent.

“It is not deriving directly from a product found in nature; it’s only made in the lab like methadone or fentanyl,” said Bucknam.

“Some individuals are selling these pain medications obviously, including fentanyl and fentanyl patches, out in the streets,” said Bliss.

Although the war on drugs may be a never-ending battle, Bliss said it’s a battle worth fighting.

“Every life matters,” said Bliss.  

The CDC also said that since 2000, opioid drug overdose deaths rose 200 percent.