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Opioid deaths soared where pain pills flowed

A database of US opioid shipments has recently been made public, allowing investigative journalists to draw a direct correlation between the distribution of prescription pain pills and death rates from opioid overdose from 2006 through 2012.

The grim data highlights a ‘belt’ of counties stretching through middle-America where per-capita opioid distribution was highest, and which have been worst-affected by both deaths and the health and social impacts of opioid addiction. Throughout this region the death rate was 4.5 times the national average, while in the worst-affected county of Norton, VA. this rate was 18 times higher.

Legal opioids have only been the start of the problem. With legal supply of pain pills drying up, many have turned to heroin and, even more dangerously, fentanyl or heroin-fentanyl blends. There were 67,000 deaths from fentanyl alone in the US between 2013 and 2017.

The newly released data is expected to be used in the ongoing federal court case in which nearly 2000 communities are suing America’s biggest opioid distributors, to show that these companies were aware that their products were being sold in violation of federal law and were being diverted to the black market.

 

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Source: The Washington Post