Portrait of the American Overdose: Do You Fit the Profile?

The profile of a typical modern-day overdose victim has drastically changed.

Overdoses from illicit drugs and prescriptions painkillers claim a total of 45,000 lives in the US each year. Who are the people typically among these tragedies? You might be surprised.

Statistics show that the profile many Americans envision when conjuring up images of a “typical” overdose victim is far from accurate. According to a 2014 study, drug users most at risk of overdose are white, middle-aged, suburban men. Even more surprising is their age. The CDC reports that the highest overdose death rate in 2015 represented people between the ages of 45 and 54.

Digging Into the Overdose Details

Since 1999, the number of opioid prescriptions handed out by doctors has quadrupled. The Surgeon General reports that 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. These painkillers, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, accounted for nearly a fourth of drug-related deaths in 2015.

Heroin is responsible for another fourth of all fatal overdoses. Between 2010 and 2015, heroin overdose deaths tripled.

Ranking third on the list are semi-synthetic opioids, which account for 18 percent of overdoses. This family of drugs includes the potent compound fentanyl. Exponentially stronger than typical opiates, dealers often mix these synthetics with other drugs, unbeknownst to the user. The unexpected potency often has fatal results.

These deaths are not limited to back alleys and poor neighborhoods. In fact, a growing number of overdoses now occur in suburban and non-urban settings – often in affluent neighborhoods.

Wondering which states have been hardest hit by fatal overdoses? According to the numbers, New Hampshire, Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky have seen the highest death toll in recent years.

Overdose Risk Factors You Should Consider

  • Tolerance: About half of all the people in recovery will ultimately suffer a relapse. When this happens, drug overdose is a serious concern. When they haven’t been using for a while, their drug tolerance drops. Unaware of this drop, they take a “normal” dose of the drug, which has a high potential for causing an overdose.
  • Mixed Substances: Taking more than one type of drug at a time also increases the risk of overdose. For example, combining opiates with alcohol can cause respiration to slow to a lethal rate. Mixing heroin with pain pills can have similar effects.

Are You at Risk?

Do you or a loved one fit any of these profiles? If so, you should be concerned about a potentially deadly overdose.

The good news is, overdoses are 100 percent preventable. Consider the risks. Get help if you need it. Addiction and recovery resources are available across the country. Don’t let yourself or someone you love become an overdose statistic.

Image Source: iStock