For the first time ever, deaths in America due to heroin overdose outnumber gun homicides. And before you ask, no, the number of gun homicides hasn’t been dropping. Good lord.
The data, pulled from the CDC by the Washington Post, is dispiriting reminder of our nation’s worsening opiate epidemic, which was started by money-hungry drug companies and continues to claim more lives year over year. Gun homicides for 2015 were estimated at 12,979; heroin killed 12,989.
Heroin only accounts for a portion of the substances being abused by opiate addicts. And as the Post points out, one of the deadliest is fentanyl, which is estimated to be between 50 and 100 times stronger than morphine. Some heroin dealers cut their supply with fentanyl, leading their customers to accidental overdoses due to the substance’s astonishing potency.
Drug and harm reduction forums have attempted to combat this by posting local alerts, warning others of potentially adulterated batches. Even still, CDC data shows fentanyl-related deaths shot up 75 percent between 2014 and 2015.
The news also comes just a week after the DEA closed its open comment period on kratom, a substance which many claim have helped them safely withdraw from opiate use. Kratom occupies a legal grey area, and was briefly considered for emergency drug scheduling by the DEA until public outcry caused the agency to reconsider.
Hopefully next year’s data reveals more optimistic trends in both homicides and opiate deaths. But with life expectancy rates falling in the US for the first time since 1993 it’s hard to hope for any drastic improvements.