Drug Overdoses Killed More People Last Year Than Iraq And Vietnam Wars

The New York Times estimates that in 2016, the opioid crisis took more lives than the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Last year also saw a 19 percent spike from 2015.

The United States opioid crisis has radically affected the death rates of those aged between 25 and 44 in just about every racial or ethnic group in almost every state, according to The Washington Post.

Recent analysis by The New York Times found that the number of deaths in 2016 was around 62,496, up from 52,404 in 2015. This 19 percent spike is the largest ever recorded in the U.S. — and is actually more than the number of U.S. troop fatalities in the Vietnam War, from 1955 to 1975, and the 2003 Iraq War combinedVox reported.

To come to this conclusion, The New York Times looked at estimates from hundreds of state health departments in all 50 states, and turned to county coroners and medical examiners as a second resort. While the data is preliminary, it will be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in December.

Heroin stamp

The areas with the biggest jumps were on the East coast in states like Maryland and Pennsylvania, and inland in Ohio. The Western states saw some decline.

Fentanyl and other manufactured drugs, such as oxycodone, have become the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. Fentanyl, which is often misleadingly sold as cocaine or heroin, can be lethal in tiny, salt-grain amounts.

Spiked heroin from New York

Even children have gained access to narcotics, with 176 percent more teens, aged 15 to 19, being poisoned by the drugs. The epic statistic just shows how massive the rise in adult drug prescriptions has been. 

But what do all these numbers mean? For the economy, it means a shrinking labor force, as Americans who were able to work are no longer able to, or are unwilling, according to CNN

It also means grim pictures of children finding their parents slumped over and overdosed, or even strangers coming across unconscious overdosed people in the streets.

And if Obamacare is successfully repealed, it means up to 4 million Americans endangered when they lose Medicaid, which funds opioid addiction treatment and counseling, according to Bloomberg

Sign advocating for Medicaid

"In a country that has been struggling with how to handle health care, we should make it a priority to ensure that people with substance disorders receive appropriate medical care and psychosocial interventions," Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York told CBS News.

While some hospitals are taking matters into their own hands by seeking out and prescribing alternative, non-opiod medications, the effort has to be nationwide to make a real impact. 

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