The National Center for Health Statistics issued a preliminary report indicating more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016. The breakdown of this national calamity for 2016 is the following:
1. Traditional opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin and Percocet, caused about 14,400 overdose deaths.
2. Non-methadone synthetic opioids ( i.e.fentanyl), were involved in more than 20,100 overdose deaths.
3. Heroin was involved in more than 15,400 drug overdose deaths.
4. The remaining overdose deaths involved other drugs (i.e. cocaine).
The opiate epidemic is directly involved with our mass incarceration crisis. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reported in 2010 that “of the 2.3 million inmates crowding our nations prisons and jails, 1.5 million meet the DSM-IV medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction, and another 458,000, while not meeting the strict DSM-IV criteria, had histories of substance abuse; were under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the time of their crime; committed their offense to get money to buy drugs; were incarcerated for an alcohol or drug law violation; or shared some combination of these characteristics.”
Data from just one state– The Massachusetts State Department of Public Health indicated opioid-related overdose deaths in jails-prisons started to increase from 656 in 2011 to 2,069 in 2016.
The United States has 25% of the world’s inmates. To change this alarming statistic, we need to confront the opioid epidemic.