More than 351,000 people died as a result of opioid-related deaths between 1999 and 2016, according to the study published Friday by researchers at the Stanford University, Harvard University and the University of Toronto.
According to Press TV, the report said the highest deaths are now seen in eight Eastern states: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire and Ohio.
The researchers found that the death rate from opioids has increased the fastest in the nation’s capital, more than tripling every year since 2013.
The study also found that highest death rates are now seen in eight Eastern states: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire and Ohio.
“Although opioid-related mortality has been stereotyped as a rural, low-income phenomenon concentrated among Appalachian or Midwestern states, it has spread rapidly, particularly among the Eastern states,” the researchers wrote.
The research, which is based on data from the US Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics, suggests the opioid epidemic has evolved as three waves.
The first wave, from the 1990s until about 2010, was associated with prescription opioid painkillers. The second wave, from 2010 until recently, was associated with a large increase in heroin-related deaths. The third and current wave, which began around 2013, involves a rapid increase in deaths associated with synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.
It’s likely that synthetic opioids have also contaminated the production process of illegal drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamines, and is no longer limited to heroin, said study author Mathew Kiang, a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University.
“People aren’t aware their drugs are laced and more potent than they expected, putting them at higher risk of overdose,” Kiang explained in a university news release.
The researchers also found that opioid overdose deaths are occurring in a wider range of people, and there have been significant increases in opioid overdose deaths among African Americans.
The 26 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths among blacks between 2016 and 2017 is the largest increase among any racial group, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Opioids were responsible for shaving 0.36 years off Americans’ life expectancy in 2016, a greater loss of life than caused by guns or motor vehicle accidents, the study says.