On average, 130 individuals in the United States die after an overdose on opioids, including heroin, fentanyl, and codeine. Quickly after the national spread of heroin through the United States, opioid overdoses increased in major cities in 16 states by 54%. The Midwest, in particular, saw a 70% increase in overdoses from July 2016 through to September 2017. Both as a public health crisis and a national epidemic, the problem has surged throughout the US and is felt in almost every state and major city. That said, certain states have become increasingly more entrenched in the feedback loop of opioid addiction.
West Virginia – Hardest Hit
West Virginia has an opioid overdose death rate close to 59 deaths per 100,000 persons, the highest ratio of any state in the US. In 2017, there believed to be 833 overdose deaths altogether. This is well over three times the rate from just seven years prior and three times higher than the national rate of 14.6 death per 100,000 persons. The bulk majority of these deaths involved synthetic opioids, namely fentanyl. Results of this dire epidemic impact not only the individual users but also family, children, and the general public.
NAS (Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome) is one such example of how the opioid epidemic affects both the victim and their offspring. The condition occurs when a pregnant woman uses opioids while carrying her child; the result is a baby experiencing withdrawal symptoms from the drugs they were exposed to in the womb. This can lead to long-term health and development problems, including hearing and vision issues and difficulty with learning and development. The short-term results are symptoms that affect the baby for one week up to 6 months and include tremors, seizures, lack of feeding or weight gain, inconsistent breathing, fever, sweating, diarrhea, and vomit. The symptoms vary depending on the duration and use of drugs or opioids the baby has been exposed to. NAS is just one example of how the sickness of addiction can spread from too far more than just the individuals afflicted. From 2011 to 2014, cases of NAS doubled from 25 cases per 1,000 hospital births to 51 cases per 1,000 hospital births in West Virginia.
Another public health factor impacted by the opioid epidemic is the spread of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and HCV (Hepatitis C) through injection drug use. In 2015, among the 1,781 estimated diagnosed persons with HIV, nearly 20% of males diagnosed were attributed to IDU drug use, and among females, nearly 30% attributed to contracting HIV through injection drugs. When it comes to HCV, 20,800 estimated persons were living with Hepatitis C in the state of West Virginia, and among that, 68 % were attributed to injection drug use. Of course, one of the most significant impacts of the opioid epidemic is overdose deaths, and as previously stated, it’s clear that West Virginia’s statistics account for the highest in the country. The trauma that an overdose death causes impacts families and loved ones across the board.
Ohio – Second Largest State Epidemic
In 2017 Ohio experienced an overdose death rate of 39 deaths per 100,000 persons. At least 4,293 reported deaths, at least 947, attributed to prescription drug abuse. Heroin, methadone and fentanyl were responsible for the highest death rate, with synthetic opioids seeing a twenty-five fold increase from 2012 to 2017. Although data for neonatal abstinence syndrome lacks for this state, it’s clear that HIV and HCV have taken a larger toll on the population due to injected drug use. The ratio of HIV and HCV is lower than in West Virginia. The larger the state and higher population density, the more people have been affected by the spread of disease through intravenous drugs. In 2015, 20,709 persons were diagnosed as living with HIV in Ohio, and 11 % of male cases were attributed to IDU and almost 17% of female cases were thought to be from IDU. Although state data is lacking, it can be assumed that Hepatitis C contraction would align with the national average of 69% percent from IDU. The total amount of persons living with HPC is Ohio is thought to be 90,600.
Pennsylvania – Third Worst Affected
The rate of overdose deaths in Pennsylvania increased from 2016 to 2017, from 37.9 per 100,000 to 44.3 per 100,00. Although there is no data for neonatal abstinence syndrome, opioid use comprises a larger share of disease contraction. Of the 34,233 persons living with diagnosed HIV in Pennsylvania, 25.5% of male patients were attributed to IDU contraction, whereas 27% of female cases attributed to IDU contraction.
The other States Affected by the Opioid Crisis
Washington DC and Kentucky are two other states that rank amount the highest for opioid-related overdose deaths as well as other systematic symptoms of the opioid epidemic.