Study Shows Americans Are More Likely to Die From Opioids Than Car Accidents

For the very first time in recorded history, the probability of dying via accidental opioid overdose is HIGHER than the chance of dying in a car accident. To put that into perspective, the lifetime odds of some causes of death are 1 in 7 for cancer, 1 in 88 for suicide, and 1 in 285 for gun assault. The National Safety Council’s Study on preventable deaths was based on data from 2017 and found that motor vehicle crashes were at 1 in 103, while opioid overdoses were at 1 in 96. The difference might not seem like much, especially when you take into account that these statistics are for the country as a population, and not for an individual’s odds of dying by different preventable causes. These are also lifetime statistics from a study in 2017, meaning that they are based on the life expectancy of someone born in the year 2017. However, when we consider how frequently opioids are mentioned in media, and how normalized it is to think that we as a country have an opioid crisis to begin with it raises some red flags. Opioids are clinically defined as pain-relieving drugs that function in relation to the opioid receptors in your cells. When used correctly, they do exactly what they are meant to do— relieve pain, but when used incorrectly or abused for a feeling of pleasure, they can cause your heart rate and your breathing to slow.

Examples of specific opioid drugs are morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl and heroin, some of which are especially popular among the population of adolescents. Not only is the risk of dying from opioids higher than the risk of dying in a car accident, but opioid overdoses are killing more children and teenagers in America as well. In the last few years, politics has shifted a spotlight onto the opioid crisis, which has caused a steady increase in the search interests of opioids in the U.S. population since 2014. Many people feel that the government is trying to peg the opioid crisis as a criminal problem caused by those who sell and make opioids available when the addiction has to start somewhere, often from getting the drug prescribed medically and not getting/taking proper precaution. This increase in general interest and search trends did not go unnoticed, and in early 2018 it led several California based doctors to publish a study which predicted that heightened internet research of opioids was indicative of future emergency department admissions and morbidity rates. Seeing as search rates have been steadily increasing since 2014, and the National Safety Council’s study rooted in 2017 showed considerable increases in overdoses, there is substantial reason to believe that the numbers will only keep climbing.



 In the last few years alone, we have also seen an increase in drug-related focuses on popular media. The accidental overdoses of celebrities like Mac Miller, Lil Peep, and Tom Petty due to fentanyl, a drug which was reported to have been the most common drug in overdoses in 2016, were widely publicized. We have also seen an increase in celebrities being open about their addictions with drugs in general, like musician Demi Lovato who recently relapsed after being clean for several years. She was open about being rushed to the hospital and treated for an opioid overdose. Well-liked movies have also covered experiences of addiction: Beautiful Boy with Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carrell, Ben Is Back featuring Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts, and A Star is Born with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. All of these forms of media attention has opened a pathway for an important dialogue on the dangers of drug and substance abuse, how to take prescribed painkillers properly, and ways to reduce the overall number of opioid overdoses in the country.

For more information on the proper use of medications considered opioids and resources for those who may be suffering from opioid addiction visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse website.