Throughout history, advancements in healthcare and technology were generally been accompanied by decreasing mortality rates, with this trend only halted by exceptional factors such as wars, natural disasters or cancer epidemics. However, a recent investigation by the New York Times has revealed that the death rate for young white Americans is currently increasing, and suggests that opioidoverdoses could bethe main cause of this alarming shift.
Opioidsaresynthetic or natural compounds that bind to the brains opiate receptors in order to block pain. A number of opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine are used to fabricate prescription painkillers, while others are found in street medications such asheroin. According to the New York Times report, a sharp increase in overdose deaths over the past 15 years has resulted in white adults aged 25 to 34 becoming the first generation since the Vietnam War to experience higher death rates in early adulthood than the generation preceding them.
According to figures released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention( CDC ), the number of deaths in this demographic increased by 24 percentage between 2004 and 2014, despite the population of the group only increasing5 percent.In an attempt to locate the main driver of this uptick in mortality, the New York Times investigated virtually 60 million death certifications, and found thatoverdose death rateincreased five-fold since 1999.
A big increased number of overdose deaths has been quoted as the major driver of rising mortality rates among young white Americans. David Smart/ Shutterstock
Although both prescription and street opioids are thought to be responsible, it is likely that increasing employ of the former is largely responsible for this staggering trend. According to Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Johns HopkinsCenter for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, reckless prescription practices have been commonplace in the U.S for some time, and are only now beginning to change as a result of improving awareness of the dangers of opioid painkillers.
Speaking to New Scientist, Alexander has pointed out that when I was in developing we were routinely taught that one need not be concerned about the craving potential of opioids, adding that, in reality , nothing could be further from the truth.
Possibly as a result of this outlook, a recent study found that more than half of female patients being treated for opioid addiction at a methadone clinic reported prescription drugs as their first contact with opioid compounds.
The fact that this rise in mortality comes in an agewhen deaths from more commonkillers such as cancerare decreasing points to just how severe the situation is. Appearing at the numbers involved, Jonathan Skinner of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy& Clinical Practice told the New York Times that they resembled what one might expect to see as a result of an infectious disease outbreak.
However, this dramatic rise in bothoverdoses and overall death rates in young person was found to apply only to non-Hispanic whites, with those from other backgrounds remaining unaffected by this trend. According to Andrew Kolodny, a drug expert from Brandeis University, this may be because of discrimination, with doctors being unwilling to prescribe opioid narcotics to non-whites for fear that they may sell them or abuse them. Alternatively, the cause of this phenomenon may reside in the findings of a recent studythat found increasing financial and social stress on white American humen had been driving greater numbers to use drugs. The same paper also cited a significant rise in suicidesas a major driver of spiraling death rates among this demographic.
In response to the steady increase in opioid overdose deaths in recent years, the CDC has published a set of guidelines for safe prescription practises, which it hopes will help to curb this epidemic.