Painkillers Are Killing More People In Virginia Than Guns And Cars

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Opioid deaths are surging this year in Virginia according to a recent report showing fatal overdoses are claiming more lives in the state than guns or motor vehicles.

A report from the Virginia Department of Health tracking the opioid crisis in Virginia for the first quarter of 2017 shows prescription painkillers and illicit street opioids continue to fuel death in the state. They are the top cause of unnatural or accidental death in Virginia, surpassing vehicle and gun fatalities, and officials say the epidemic is showing no signs of letting up, reports Williamsburg Yorktown Daily.

Although the data is preliminary and subject to change, the current report suggest the opioid death toll will surpass the record death rate in 2016. Over the first quarter of the year 306 Virginians died from opioid related overdoses, a slight increase over the first quarter of 2016.

Officials blame fentanyl as a major driver of the state opioid crisis, which Virginia Health Commissioner Marissa Levine declared a public health emergency Nov. 21 2016. Fentanyl deaths spiked 176 percent over 2015 and 2016 and have already claimed 190 lives over the first quarter of this year, up from 145 at this time last year.

On the advice of the White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, President Donald Trump declared the epidemic a national emergency Aug. 10. The commission submitted a report to Trump July 31, noting that, “with approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks.”

“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I am saying, officially, right now, it is an emergency,” Trump said Aug. 10, according to CNN. “It’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis. It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had.”

A recent STAT analysis predicts the annual death toll from opioids will rise by roughly 35 percent between 2015 and 2027. Their research predicts up to 500,000 people could die from opioids over the next decade. The experts agree, even in a best-case scenario, the crisis will not visibly start to subside until after 2020.

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