The Heroin Epidemic: Will it ever end?

     It is no surprise that drug use has been a problem around the country for several decades. What is surprising, is the alarmingly increasing rate of drug-related deaths, involving heroin. I’m sure that you’ve noticed an increased number of calls in your area, either while listening to the scanner, or even being dispatched on these calls to assist EMS. The call will likely come across dispatch as an “unconscious overdose.” If you do get dispatched with EMS, check your call statistics from years past, and I’m sure you will notice an increasing trend with EMS assist calls. If you don’t work for a department, or volunteer at one, you can see what I am talking about here…

Below are three separate charts, pulled directly from the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control) website. In chart 1, it shows the number of overdose deaths involving all drugs, from 2002 – 2015. It’s obvious that there is an increasing trend. 2015 was the highest recorded year thus far, with over 50,000 deaths due to drug overdoses. In chart 2, it shows the number of overdose deaths, involving strictly opioid drugs, both prescribed and not. Of the 50,000 deaths in 2015, nearly 35,000 of those were from opioid drugs. In chart 3, it shows the number of overdose deaths involved only heroin. In 2015, of the near 35,000 opioid deaths, nearly 14,000 were from heroin alone. Heroin deaths have been on a steady increase, rising to nearly 10,000 deaths in only four (4) years. More and more people are using heroin than ever before, and it is only getting worse. We found a short-term solution that many of you are probably familiar with and are trained to administer in these types of situations. I’m of course talking about naloxone, commonly known as Narcan. The true question is, what is the permanent solution for heroin overdoses?

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