If the rising drug overdose trend isn’t bad enough, it’s about to get worse. The United States drug overdose statistics have increased for several consecutive years and shows no signs of decelerating. A study late last year by Columbia University supports this hypothesis, proposing that annual drug overdose deaths could reach 50,000 by 2017.
Salima Darakjy, a doctoral student at Columbia, led the research, which was published by Injury Epidemiology. She broke fresh ground with this study, which is the first to use Farr’s Law as a process of studying epidemics that aren’t infectious in character. Farr’s Law states that the curve of instances of an epidemic increases precipitously at first, then increase to a peak from which the fall is steeper than the preceding rise. She also used statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics and supported her work on the hypothesis that public health resources would continue to be a tool in counteracting overdoses.
More than 40,000 people die annually from drug overdoses in the U.S. each year. It was determined in the study that drug overdoses will continue to rise in the next few years, and also predicted a silver lining: If things go as the study predicts, annual fatal overdose rates could drop slowly after reaching a peak of 50,000 in 2017. By using Farr’s Law, Darakjy predicts that overdose deaths will decline by 6,000 by the year 2035.
“If the epidemic of drug overdoses is indeed waning, it may imply that intensifying efforts in recent years, such as enhanced prescription drug monitoring are working and should be continued,” Darakjy said.
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, accidental drug overdose deaths have more that doubled since 1999. Roughly 17,000 people died in this way in 1999, but that number swelled to 41,000 in 2012. 16,000 of these deaths involved opioid-based painkillers. Not unexpectedly, the number of heroin-related deaths also nearly tripled during this period of time, with almost 6,000 instances being stated in 2012.
Dr. Guohua Li, a professor of Epidemiology and director for the Center for Injury Prevention at the Mailman School echoed that sentiment, by noting that “a decline in overdose deaths shouldn’t be used as justification to pull back; that would be wrong. If there is no intervention, than the epidemic will last much longer.”