According to CDC – Addiction Rate From Opiates is 0.62% • CERGM – By R. Carter – Mar 2019
(The 0.62% quoted in the post title is based on verbal statements made by CDC leadership.)
We’ve all heard the headlines, the sound bites. Opiate overdose deaths now exceed deaths from auto accidents. Opiates now the 3rd leading cause of unintentional deaths in the U.S.
Sounds dramatic doesn’t it. I’m critical of these statements because the data doesn’t fit the message.
Such statements are another way of weaponizing the data.
Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, responded to a question about the U.S. opiate crisis in 2017 and gave these facts: https://youtu.be/ggT1aSgwubY
Mr. Frieden estimated that more than two million Americans are addicted to opiates.
With a U.S. population of 324,459,463 in the same year, that’s a much smaller percentage than what you typically see reported. For example, the number I see tossed around most often in CDC reports is 3%.
If 3% were the case, then 9.7 million people would be addicted.
So which is it?
Even if the numbers were as high as 3 million that would still just be 0.9% of the population.
This report from CDC Wonder for 2017 shows the fifteen leading causes of death. Opiates don’t even appear on the list, yet in 2019 I’ve seen more than a dozen reports quoting 2017 data and opiates as the 3rd leading cause of death.
Which is it, CDC?
Opiate related deaths are buried in Accidents (unintentional injuries) and Intentional self-harm (suicide). Filtering out unrelated causes is made difficult by virtue of limitations within the data itself.
The following codes can be used when running a report. All classes of drug poisonings include:
- (X40-44) Overdose Unintentional
- (X60-64) Overdose Suicide
- (X85) D3 Drug poisonings (overdose) Homicide
- (Y10-Y14) Drug poisonings (overdose) Undetermined
When officials discuss addiction and overdose deaths from opiates, sources cited in their publications often mix data on both subjects, further confusing the message and leaving the reader to ask, are we talking about addiction or overdose deaths from opiates?
So what can researchers do if they want to fine tune and be more specific?
They rely on data from other sources such as:
- National Poison Data System, DAWN (Drug Abuse Warning Network)
- NIS Database (National Inpatient Survey)
- The Cochrane Library
- National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
- National Institute on Drug AbuseExternal
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services AdministrationExternal
- National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug InformationExternal
- National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA)
Most certainly there needs to be clarification from these officials on whether their data and their message is about, addiction, overdose deaths or both.
Since 2010 the public has been told and convinced, that prescription opiates are the leading cause for opiate addiction and opiate overdose deaths.
This author also created a page with numerous and excellent charts showing the reality of opioid prescriptions falling while overdoses from the opioid fentanyl continue to skyrocket.