opioids

Walmart is the latest national company joining in the fight to try to help curb America's harrowing opioid epidemic, which now kills more people than breast cancer.

Accidental deaths in the United States rose significantly in 2016, becoming the third-leading cause of fatalities for the first time in more than a century – a trend fueled by the steep rise in opioid overdoses, the National Safety Council reports.

Accidents — defined by the council as unintentional, preventable injuries — claimed a record 161,374 lives in 2016, a 10 percent increase over 2015. They include motor vehicle crashes, falls, drowning, choking and poisoning, a category that encompasses accidental overdoses.

Mapping How The Opioid Epidemic Sparked An HIV Outbreak

Jan 14, 2018

When people started to show up to Dr. William Cooke's primary care office in Austin, Ind., in 2014 with HIV, Cooke knew it was probably related to the region's opioid epidemic. But what he and the rest of the public health community didn't know was who they were missing or how long the HIV outbreak had been going on.

Doctors at some of the country's largest hospital chains admit they went overboard with opioids to make people as pain-free as possible.

Now the doctors shoulder part of the blame for the country's opioid crisis. In an effort to be part of the cure, they've begun to issue an uncomfortable warning to patients: You're going to feel some pain.

Seven years ago, Robert Kerley, who makes his living as a truck driver, was loading drywall onto his trailer when a gust of wind knocked him off. He fell 14 feet and hurt his back.

For pain, a series of doctors prescribed him a variety of opioids: Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin.

In less than a year, the 45-year-old from Federal Heights, Colo., says he was hooked. "I spent most of my time high, lying on the couch, not doing nothing, sleeping, dozing off, falling asleep everywhere," he says.

As the opioid crisis continued to plague communities across the country, this year. several states have joined a handful of others in declaring opioid emergencies. President Trump recently labeled the crisis a national public "health emergency." That drew attention to the issue, but did not come with any new funding.

The U.S. foster care system is overwhelmed, in part because America's opioid crisis is overwhelming. Thousands of children have had to be taken out of the care of parents or a parent who is addicted.

Indiana is among the states that have seen the largest one-year increase in the number of children who need foster care. Judge Marilyn Moores, who heads the juvenile court in Marion County, which includes Indianapolis, says the health crisis is straining resources in Indiana.

Life expectancy in the U.S. fell for the second year in a row in 2016, nudged down again by a surge in fatal opioid overdoses, federal officials report Thursday.

"I'm not prone to dramatic statements," says Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics. "But I think we should be really alarmed. The drug overdose problem is a public health problem, and it needs to be addressed. We need to get a handle on it."

It's no secret why drug users come to George Patterson in a mall parking lot just outside Phoenix to get their clean needles, syringes and other supplies on Tuesday afternoons, instead of heading to the pharmacy down the street.

"It's really low-barrier the way we are doing it," Patterson says. "All you have to do is find us."

Oleg Dudko - 123rf Stock Photo

Kentucky's Democratic attorney general says his efforts to sue companies that make powerfully addictive opioid-based painkillers have been stymied by the administration of the state's Republican governor. 

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