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Drug Overdose Deaths are on the Rise Nationwide

Recently, the New York Times examined what it referred to as a growing “epidemic” of drug overdose deaths throughout the United States. The Times reports that deaths from drug overdoses have surged in almost every county across the U.S., due primarily to an explosion in addiction to heroin and prescription drugs. The number of deaths reached a new high in 2014 – 47,055 people dead, which equates to around 125 people per day.

The death rate from overdoses, according to the Times, is rising faster than other causes of death. Overdose deaths are a problem in both rural and urban areas, but the death rates in rural areas are now outpacing the rates in big cities. The largest concentrations are in the Southwest and Appalachia, although the problem extends nationwide.

Opioid addiction

Opioids are involved in more than 61 percent of deaths from overdoses nationwide in 2014. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website explains that prescription opioids are used for pain relief and derived from the opium poppy, or synthetic versions of it. Opioids include:

  • hydrocodone (Vicodin);
  • oxycodone (OxyContin);
  • methadone; and
  • codeine.

Heroin is also an opioid, and according to the CDC its use is growing rapidly among men and women, across most age groups and all income levels. In the past decade, heroin use among young adults (ages 18-25) has more than doubled, and 45 percent of the people who used heroin were also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers.

New Hampshire

The Times reports that yet another opioid, fentanyl, is contributing to the growing number of deaths, particularly in New Hampshire. In that state, most drug overdose deaths in 2014 were related to a version of fentanyl, either laced with heroin or sold on its own as heroin. Not coincidentally, New Hampshire ranks next-to-last among all the states in access to treatment programs, ahead of only Texas.

West Virginia and Appalachia

West Virginia has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country. According to the Times, Appalachia has been stricken with a high rate of death because of prescription drug addiction among the region’s mostly blue-collar workers. When laws targeting prescription drug abuse were passed a few years ago, many addicts transferred their addictions to heroin instead. Now, a lack of access to treatment ensures that overdoses, and corresponding deaths, will remain high.

New Mexico

New Mexico’s death rate from heroin overdoses has been high since the 1990s. Now, according to the Times, heroin addiction is being passed from one generation to the next, and shifting to affect younger as well as more affluent populations.


While the Times story does not touch on Pennsylvania’s statistics, the State Coroners Association’s 2014 Report on Overdose Death Statistics reveals that drug-related deaths increased by an average of 20 percent for most counties. At least 2,489 individuals died statewide. These deaths, like those across the rest of the country, resulted generally from the use of prescription drugs and heroin.

Our attorneys at Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. are deeply saddened by the information regarding drug-related deaths. Please reach out to us today if you need assistance with an injury claim in Pennsylvania.

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Cohen, Placitella & Roth, PC (215) 567-3500

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