Nearly 70,000 Deaths Worldwide Are Caused by Opioid Overdoses

By Victoria Kim 11/11/14

The World Health Organization has released guidelines aimed at reducing overdose deaths caused by opioids.

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Each year, nearly 70,000 lives are claimed by opioid overdose, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported last week.

The UN health agency released new guidelines aimed at reducing opioid overdose deaths caused by drugs like morphine, heroin, and painkillers such as oxycodone.

“Worldwide, an estimated 69,000 people die from opioid overdose each year,” the WHO reported. “The number of opioid overdoses has risen in recent years, in part due to the increased use of opioids in the management of chronic pain.”

In the United States alone, 16,651 people died from prescription opioid overdose in 2010, according to the WHO. Their main recommendation was to provide the “opioid antidote” naloxone, a medication that reverses opioid drug overdose, to people likely to witness an overdose. Naloxone, in combination with training on the resuscitation of people having an opioid overdose, could substantially reduce opioid overdose deaths.

“A recent survey in the United States found that the distribution of approximately 50,000 naloxone kits through local opioid overdose prevention programs had resulted in more than 10,000 uses to reverse overdoses,” the WHO reported.

Around the world, from Scotland to New Jersey, the use of naloxone, which can be injected or administered intra-nasally, is expanding, equipping first responders and law enforcement. Earlier this month, a study revealed that prescription painkillers accounted for 68% of overdoses treated in emergency rooms in the U.S. in 2010.

The UN health agency acknowledged the trend that has exploded to epidemic levels over the last decade, that has doctors now prescribing over 259 million prescriptions for painkillers annually. Though the majority of people dependent on opioids use heroin, a fast rising proportion are dependent on prescription opioids.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr