Finally, Good News About the Opiate Epidemic

Heroin Kills

The opiate epidemic has been a huge issue for years and at this point, the opiate epidemic is a household name. Everyone has heard of it and knows how bad it is. But could things be changing? While the number of overdose deaths in 2017 was over 60,000, there is one new figure that shows there may be hope.

The number of new opiate users has dropped significantly according to a SAMHSA with 81,000 new heroin users in 2017 compared to 170,000 new users in 2016. In addition, there was a drop in the misuse of prescription opioids from an estimated 8.5 percent in 2015 to just over 7 percent in 2017. Many experts agree this is most likely due to the raised awareness of the deaths from opiate use.

While both are a step in the right direction, the study had more good news. The number of people going into treatment for opiate addiction increased, jumping from 10 percent to 14 percent last year.

As much as it is relieving to hear some good news in the midst of this crisis, it must be taken with a grain of salt, since while the opiate crisis seems to have gotten better, the new users of other drugs has gone up. Specifically, Methamphetamines, Cocaine and Marijuana have all seen a rise in new users over the last year.

  • Marijuana use went up in all age groups except in young teenagers.
  • Methamphetamine and Cocaine use has also increased in young adults ages 18 to 25.
  • Alcohol abuse and binge drinking behavior showed a slight growth in almost every age group.

“Taken together, this does not look like the portrait of a nation with improving mental health and addiction issues,”

“Taken together, this does not look like the portrait of a nation with improving mental health and addiction issues,” said Brendan Saloner, an addiction researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It’s hard to look at this and not think we need to be doing a better job than we’re doing now.”—Associated Press News

It’s true while new users of heroin have gone down, when you look at the whole picture, it does not look like our problem with drug abuse in this country is getting better. Last year, the number of overdose deaths rose again to over 70,000 and while it is good to hear that less people are starting down the path to becoming a statistic of the opiate epidemic, it could be years before this shows a drop in opioid deaths. Also, these trends paint the picture that people are changing to other drugs instead of opiates and heroin. As a country, we are still a long journey away from handling the drug problem.

We need to work together as a country to start to attack the problems we face as a country with substance abuse of all types and this begins with treatment for those already addicted and education to prevent future use.

The information contained in the article comes from the Results of the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed tables performed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


Cori Kertis, CIT

Growing up in Nevada, she moved to Hawaii by herself at the age of 16. On a trip home to visit grandparents, she was offered a chance at residential treatment. Now over a year sober, Cori lives in Denham Springs and works at Narconon Louisiana helping other addicts who want a new life. LinkedIn: Cori Kertis Google+: Cori Kertis Twitter: @CoriKertis