The opioid crisis can be worse than previously thought.
A new study has shown that the death toll could be 28 percent higher than reported because death certificates omit the specific drug involved in an overdose.
After analyzing overdoses from 1999 to 2016, a researcher discovered that 99,160 additional deaths were attributed to opioids that were not classified.
These deaths were found in various states, including Alabama, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Indiana, where the estimated number of losses more than doubles.
Researchers say that the lack of correct data conceals the scope of the opioid crisis and may have an impact on programs and funding intended to cope with the epidemic.
Scroll down for video
After analyzing overdoses from 1999 to 2016, a researcher discovered that more than 99,000 deaths were attributed to opioids that were not classified. These deaths were found in various states, including Alabama, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Indiana, where the estimated number of losses more than doubles
Elaine Hill, Ph.D., an economist and assistant professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Public Health Sciences and senior author of the study, said: “A significant portion of the fatal drug overdose lacks information about specific drug involvement , which leads to underreporting of opioid-related mortality rates and a misrepresentation of the magnitude of the opioid crisis’.
“The corrected estimates of opioid-related deaths in this study are not trivial and show that the human toll was considerably higher than reported, with thousands of lives taken each year.”
Hill and her team saw a total of 632,331 overdoses between 1999 and 2016.
They found that 78.2 percent of the records classified a specific drug, while 21.8 percent were not classified.
After further research, the researchers discovered that 71.8 percent were opioids, that is 99,160 extra deaths.
Researchers discovered that 78.2 percent of the records classified a specific drug, while 21.8 percent were not classified. After further research, the researchers discovered that 71.8 percent were opioids, that is 99,160 extra deaths
Researchers started this study by obtaining death recorders from those who had died of drug overdose from the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This data also includes the medical problems of the individual that may have led to the end of their life.
Using a statistical analysis, the researchers were able to correlate the information in the death records of unclassified deaths from overdose with contributing causes associated with known opioid-related deaths, such as previous opioid use and chronic pain conditions.
Using a statistical analysis, the researchers were able to correlate the information in the death records of unclassified deaths from overdoses with contributing causes associated with known opioid-related deaths, such as previous opioid use and chronic pain conditions
While the total rate of unclassified deaths decreased over time, a phenomenon that researchers speculate is the result of a more focused effort by federal, state, and local officials to understand the magnitude of the crisis in different states the number remained high.
The new number of deaths was found in various states in the US, including Alabama, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Indiana.
Researchers discovered that in each of these states, the number of opioid-related deaths even increased by more than 100 percent.
WHAT IS OXYCODONE?
Oxycodone is the most commonly prescribed opioid in the US, in addition to hydrocodone.
They are both classified as ‘semi-synthetic’ because they (like heroin) are synthesized from opium.
The effects of oxycodone on the brain are indistinguishable from the effects of heroin.
The most used brand is OxyContin, made by Purdue Pharma, which has become the poster child of the opioid epidemic.
Despite attempts to make the drug less addictive – by making it more difficult – the drug is still frequently reported in overdoses.
In Pennsylvania, the number of deaths attributed to opioids was 12,327, but the findings reveal that there were actually 26,586.
Although this is a huge peak, the state is lagging behind California and Florida.
“The under-reporting of opioid-related deaths is highly dependent on location and these new data change our perception of the intensity of the problem,” Hill said.
“Understanding the true extent and geography of the opioid crisis is a critical factor in the national response to the epidemic and the allocation of federal and state resources to prevent overdoses, treat treatment disorders with opioids, regulate prescription of opioid drugs, and regulate illegal drug trafficking ‘.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that there were approximately 375,000 deaths from opioids and 106,000 from heroin between 2003 and 2017.
But researchers from the University of South Florida discovered that government officials in Sunshine State alone missed as much as 45 percent of the deaths.
The team says it estimates that over the course of 14 years across the country there were 33 percent more fatal opioid overdoses and 36 percent more heroin overdose than previously reported.
According to the CDC, the number of deaths from overdoses in 2017 was 70,000, an increase of 10 percent compared to the previous year.
Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that is 100 times stronger than morphine, was the perpetrator, alone responsible for a 45 percent increase in deaths between 2016 and 2017.
Both studies, however, concluded that the death toll could be much higher than reported.