A new report says that drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.
The New York Times reviewed preliminary data and came to the conclusion that there were likely over 59,000 estimated drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2016, a 19-percent increase from 2015.
The newspaper notes that opioid addiction is one of the main factors in this public health crisis, which is aided by illegally produced fentanyl and similar opioid-based drugs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will not release its official overdose numbers for 2016 until December 2017, but The New York Times compiled its numbers from hundreds of medical examiners, state health department and county coroners.
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Robert Anderson, head of the Mortality Statistics Branch of the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC, reviewed the newspaper's overdose estimates and said the numbers seemed reasonable.
Interestingly, nosologists, who code the cause of deaths for official records, usually do not consider a death by alcohol to be a drug overdose even though alcohol is technically a drug.
According to the newspaper's data, there were drug overdose increases in Maryland, Florida, Pennsylvania, Maine and Ohio. The Buckeye State, which saw an increase of more than 25 percent in overdose deaths, filed a lawsuit on May 31 against five pharmaceutical companies for allegedly engaging in the fraudulent marketing of prescription opioid medications.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who filed the lawsuit, laid out his reasoning in a press release;
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We believe the evidence will also show that these companies got thousands and thousands of Ohioans -- our friends, our family members, our co-workers, our kids -- addicted to opioid pain medications, which has all too often led to use of the cheaper alternatives of heroin and synthetic opioids.
These drug manufacturers led prescribers to believe that opioids were not addictive, that addiction was an easy thing to overcome, or that addiction could actually be treated by taking even more opioids. They knew they were wrong, but they did it anyway -- and they continue to do it. Despite all evidence to the contrary about the addictive nature of these pain medications, they are doing precious little to take responsibility for their actions and to tell the public the truth.
DeWine told NPR that the drug companies lied to physicians to sell more of their opioid drugs: "We believe that the evidence will show that these pharmaceutical companies purposely misled doctors about the dangers connected with pain meds that they produced, and that they did so for the purpose of increasing sales. And boy, did they increase sales."