STAT Forecast: Opioids Could Kill Nearly Half a Million Americans in Next Decade

Deaths poised to surpass AIDS epidemic

Opioids could kill nearly 500,000 people in America during the next decade as the crisis of addiction and overdose accelerates, according to survey results posted on the STAT website.

Deaths from opioids have been rising sharply for years, and drug overdoses already kill more Americans under age 50 than anything else. STAT asked leading public health experts at 10 universities to forecast the arc of the epidemic during the next decade. The consensus: It will get worse before it gets better.

Currently, opioids are responsible for nearly 100 deaths per day in the U.S. In the worst-case scenario posed by STAT’s expert panel, that toll could spike to 250 deaths a day if potent synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil, continue to spread rapidly and the waiting times for treatment continue to stretch to weeks in hard-hit states, such as West Virginia and New Hampshire.

If that prediction proves accurate, the STAT article says, the death toll during the next decade could top 650,000. That’s almost as many Americans as will die from breast cancer and prostate cancer during that period.

According to the article, even 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 deaths from acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) 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 during the next decade.

Source: STAT; June 27, 2017.