Report Warns Accidental Opioid Death More Common Than Death From Accidental Vehicle Crash

The United States has been amidst an opioid epidemic and it looks like that crisis has hit a new high. In fact, Americans are now more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than a motor vehicle accident. 

According to new “Injury Facts” data from the non-profit group the National Safety Council (NSC), the lifetime odds of dying by accidental opioid overdose are about 1 in 96 while the odds of dying from a motor vehicle collision are 1 in 103.  These estimates are based on mortality data from 2017, collected by the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a statement published on Monday, the NSC said, “The nation’s opioid crisis is fueling the Council’s grim probabilities, and that crisis is worsening with an influx of illicit fentanyl.”

Looking at the data another way, the National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that nearly 50,000 people died from opioid overdose in 2017.  In addition, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study, in December, describing that 9,000 children teens and children died from opioid poisoning from 1999 to 2016.  Also, the National Safety Council advises that the odds from dying in a fall are 1 in 114.

All in all, National Safety Council manager of statistics Ken Kolosh comments, “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.”

Indeed, nearly 170,000 preventable deaths were reported in 2017. This is up more than 5 percent since 2016.  At the same time, a study published last year in the journal Addiction suggests that opioid-related overdose deaths could be under-counted by more than a third.

All things considered, it is important not to overlook the fact that opioid overdose is complicated because people come by these drugs in both legal and illegal ways.  Opioid painkillers are commonly prescribed, but they are also common on the illicit drug market.  As such, it is important to increase pain management training for health care professionals who prescribe painkillers; and to make the lifesaving drug naloxone more widely available while expanding convenient and affordable access to addiction treatment.