The Opioid Epidemic: 115 People Die Every Day

The Opioid Epidemic: 115 People Die Every Day

Opioids now kill as many people every year as guns.

Read on for more startling facts:

  • On the opioid epidemic and what exactly are opioid drugs,

  • Missouri and Cole County's status in the epidemic,

  • How your dentist and doctors are trying to prevent overdoses. (Even if it means watching an unhappy patient walk out the door.)

  • Finally, and most interestingly, how opioids may not even work for dental pain.

poppy flower

Here are some more facts on the opioid epidemic:

  • In 2015, about a third of all adults in America used an opioid.

    • It’s not a minority problem. Today’s opioid users are typically white men and women, who were first introduced through a prescription.

    • The majority of opioid overdose deaths are from ages 25-54.

  • The CDC reports opioid deaths increased 5x from 1999 to 2016, totaling 350,000+ within those years--from both prescription and illegal opioids.

  • 66% of all drug overdoses in 2016 were from opioids. (And over half of these deaths were from LEGAL opioid prescriptions.)

  • So, if opioids and guns kill about the same number of people--why aren't gun deaths an epidemic? The rate of death from guns has been consistently high for a long period of time (2016 = 106 gun deaths/day), however, opioid deaths have EXPLODED, especially in the last 8 years.

no idea what an opioid is
  • The most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths include: Methadone, Oxycodone (such as OxyContin®), and Hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®). The most common illegal opioids are heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF).

  • The first wave of deaths began in the 1990s from the increased prescription of opioids, followed by a second wave in 2010 with deaths from heroin, and finally a third wave beginning in 2013 from synthetic opioids like IMF often combined with heroin and cocaine:

opioid death in waves
  • Missouri (one of the top 20 worst states for opioid deaths) saw a statistically significant increase in opioid deaths from 2015 to 2016—a 30% increase! The rest of the red-coded states on this map also saw a statistically significant increase that year:

by state.jpg

Interestingly, every state except Missouri has prescription drug monitoring system.

(Say whaaaaaat?) I know. So that means Missouri doctors can't easily look up prescriptions patients may have received from other sources. Doctors have to rely on their gut and believe the patient about their prescription history. (At least at the time of this post!)

state capitol building - Jefferson city, mo

state capitol building - Jefferson city, mo

Cole County is looking for a fight.

As of the summer of 2018, Cole County is trying to join several other Missouri counties in a lawsuit against “contributors of opioid-addiction crisis.” If there is a settlement, it could go toward education, prevention, and treatment.

According to data from 2013-2017, about every three months somebody dies from an opioid overdose in Cole County. And approximately 6 people per month in our county seek emergency treatment due to opioids. (Mainly ages 25-34!)

The Doctor’s Role in the Epidemic:

First, Do No Harm

An interesting paper, under this name (click above for the full document), was published last year by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). A lengthy 21 pages written to guide medical professionals through balancing two sides of the same coin— helping people and hurting them, all with the use of opioids. Much of the information in this post is courtesy of the paper by NAM.

Regulations of these medicines is essential to ensure the health and safety of the general public, while still ensuring that their medical needs are met. --Ethan Siegel

Although saving a person’s life from opioids should be the responsibility of that person, the burden is now falling upon the shoulders of medical professionals.


Can't win them all.

It's story time: We recently lost a new patient because it isn’t our standard of care to prescribe narcotics for pain management of fillings. For FILLINGS that had not even happened yet. The patient said that their last dentist, "did it all the time."

First, narcotics are usually ever necessary for standard fillings. Even a typical extraction does not warrant a pain prescription every time.

Second, maybe their previous dentist DID do it all the time, however, dentists (and "real" doctors) everywhere are under pressure to save lives by not prescribing unnecessary opioids.

Third, if a patient gets so upset about not receiving a pain prescription (especially if they are accustomed to receiving one), it seems glaringly obvious they are exhibiting drug-seeking behavior.

We stand by our decision, wouldn’t you?


Did you know— Opioids may not even be as effective for managing short-term dental pain as over-the-counter options?

For that reason, and to hopefully help curb the overdose epidemic from abuse of opioid drugs, groups such as NAM are encouraging dentists to prioritize the use of non-opioid analgesics (pain relievers) after procedures.

Read our last Riverbend & Beyond post for more information on how to manage short-term dental pain without a prescription: click here!

Help end the opioid epidemic.

Other tips to take action against the opioid epidemic and keeping your family safe:

Jefferson City’s Council for Drug Free Youth:

List of Rehabilitation Centers in Cole County, Missouri:

Happy new year to State of Missouri employees--we're in-network!

Happy new year to State of Missouri employees--we're in-network!

Dental Pain Management and Dental Infections

Dental Pain Management and Dental Infections