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TFAH study of CDC data indicates W.Va. led nation in drug overdose deaths last year

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — New number released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention includes a startling three-year trend in the United States that hasn’t been seen in 100 years.

For the third year in a row in 2017, the U.S. life expectancy rate decreased. According to the CDC, a large part the trend of the decrease has been drug overdoses and suicides.

In an analysis of the data by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and Well Being Trust (WBT), West Virginia continued to have the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in 2017, 57.8 deaths per 100,000 people. TFAH and WBT found deaths due to drug overdose and suicide increased last year by 9.6%.

According to the analysis by TFAH and WBT, since 1999 the suicide rate in the country is up by 33-percent.

“The main lesson from this is we are still facing an uphill battle and a serious challenge in addressing the opioid epidemic,” John Auerbach, the President, and CEO of TFAH, said. “Most of the overdose deaths are related to opioids.”

West Virginia’s drug overdose death rate in 2017 was an increase from 2016 by 11-percent. Two of the highest states behind West Virginia were Ohio, with a rate of 46.3 deaths per 100,000 and Pennsylvania with a rate of 44.3 deaths per 100,000

Auerbach said there are multiple factors to this trend in a specific region of the country, including the economy and distribution of illegal drugs.

“This area of the country has seen significant distribution of opioids,” he said. “This could also be related as well to access of treatment, primary care as well as drug treatment and related to the economy.

“When unemployment raises, when people face trauma in their life whether financial or personal. It can be a transition in their life coming out correctional facility or coming back from the armed services. People are at an elevated risk for a number of factors that can be partly explaining why we have seen the elevated levels of West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.”

In more of the analysis of the study by the TFAH and WBT, they found the age range of drug overdose and suicide deaths that increased the most were 25-44 years old, by 11-percent.

Auerbach said there needs to be a national, comprehensive approach to fighting back.

“We need to develop a national strategy that incorporates many different components,” he said. “When people are addicted we need to make sure they have ready access to drug treatment like health insurance, a bed or residential treatment facility available. We need to have Naloxone ready, an overdose drug reversal and medical assisted treatment such as Buprenorphine.”

“We at Trust for America Health also believe we need to think about the pipeline, and how to work more on upstream prevention so that children, adolescents, and young adults are less likely to become addicted.”

Auerbach said their analysis indicates that West Virginia and parts of the country are seeing a leveling off of the prescription drugs as the cause of death and the increase of these synthetic illegal drugs, such as fentanyl.

According to the analysis, there has been a 45-percent increase in death rate from synthetic opioids including fentanyl.

“That may indicate that good work has been done to try to do more appropriate subscribing of opioids and that is encouraging and needs to continue,” Auerbach said. “But this is an epidemic that has multiple facets to it and so a single approach won’t work. We have to work on multiple fronts with multiple drugs.

Drug overdose death rates were lower in eight states. Auerbach said his organization has been in touch with West Virginia and says there is light at the end of the tunnel for the state.

“Good work has been done and is being done to reverses these epidemics,” he said. “We at the TFAH, have worked closely with Dr. Rahul Gupta, who was the State Health Commissioner to support a number of approaches that would increase access to care and prevent overdose reversal and think about prevention.”

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