Odds of dying from an opioid overdose surpass traffic accidents

Odds of dying from an opioid overdose surpass traffic accidents
Accidental deaths from opioid overdoses are now more common than fatal car crashes.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - New numbers show for the first time, Americans are more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than from a traffic accident.

The National Safety Council places the odds of dying accidentally from an opioid overdose at 1 in 96.

That surpasses the 1 in 103 odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash, historically the greatest cause of accidental death. For more information on how these odds are calculated, click or tap here.

Opioid overdose deaths drive an alarming growth in overall accidental deaths.

“We’ve made significant strides in overall longevity in the United States, but we are dying from things typically called accidents at rates we haven’t seen in half a century," Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics at the National Safety Council, said in a press release. “We cannot be complacent about 466 lives lost every day. This new analysis reinforces that we must consistently prioritize safety at work, at home and on the road to prevent these dire outcomes.”

The findings hit home in Kentucky, among the worst in the U.S. for opioid overdoses.

But WAVE County doctors and first responders say there are also signs of hope.

“Most people who use heroin, overdose and die started with pills when they were teenagers,” UofL Emergency Physician Martin Huecker said. “And now that the pills aren’t there, we think that finally caught up and we don’t have as many people addicted.”

Dr. Huecker said after spikes in the numbers of overdoses and deaths in recent years, the hospital is currently seeing fewer opioid overdose ER visits and a declining death rate. Louisville Metro Emergency Medical Services (LMEMS) had similar observations.

“Thankfully, in 2018 we saw a slight decrease in the numbers we saw in 2017,” LMEMS spokesman Mitchell Burmeister said. “However, those numbers of calls we are responding to are still high, still concerning. And we want to do everything we can to get the word out that this is a big problem.”

The availability of the overdose drug Narcan could be one reason for recent numbers. In 6,688 overdose calls recorded by Metro EMS last year, Narcan was used 2,384.3 times.

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