Opioid addiction could kill almost as many Americans in the next decade as have died from HIV/AIDS since that epidemic came to light in the early 1980s, STAT reports. The publication reached out to experts who predict that opioids could possibly kill 250 people a day; about 100 people a day die from that epidemic now. That comes to about 650,000 deaths in the next decade.
STAT: “It’s already so bad that once unthinkable scenes of public overdose are now common: People are dying on public buses and inside fast-food restaurants. They’re collapsing unconscious on street corners and in libraries after overdosing on prescription pain pills, heroin, and fentanyl.”
There doesn’t seem to be any quick fixes, either. Robert Valuck, professor at the University of Colorado-Denver’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, told STAT: “It took us about 30 years to get into this mess. I don’t think we’re going to get out of it in two or three.”
The deaths have been coming so quickly that coroners are running out of space. They’d better find some room, though. “Most of the forecasts produced by STAT predict the annual death toll will increase by at least 35 percent between 2015 and 2027. Under the gravest scenarios, it could triple — to more than 93,000 deaths a year.”
The STAT prediction takes into account the worst- and the best-case scenarios. “Even the more middle-of-the-road forecasts suggest that by 2027, the annual U.S. death toll from opioids alone will likely surpass the worst year of gun deaths on record, and may top the worst year of AIDS deaths at the peak of that epidemic in the 1990s, when nearly 50,000 people were dying each year. The average toll across all 10 forecasts: nearly 500,000 deaths over the next decade.