U.S. overdose rates on the rise, national data says

TULSA, Okla. — The National Center for Health Statistics recently released information regarding the country’s drug overdose death count. Over a 12-month period, deaths topped 100,000 — a record number count.

Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Health Sciences, Jason Beaman, said Oklahoma has not been spared from the drug overdose epidemic. He said the state has seen an alarming growth rate of overdose deaths in recent years.

Beaman said he remembers the beginning of the epidemic during his training and said his first patient he ever lost as a physician died of an opioid overdose. He said it’s something that’s always stuck with him and the reason he continues to have a passion to study and improve the issue. -

Beaman said the drug overdose epidemic started about 25 years ago when pharmaceutical companies started aggressive marketing practices. He said doctors were prescribing more opioids than ever before.

He added “We have really high numbers of opioids and those patients got addicted because opioids are addicting medication. They work on the brain the same way that Heroin does.”

Times have changed and Beaman said patients don’t have access to the same medication like they once did which has resulted to some patients finding alternatives. Because of that demand, Beaman said Oklahoma has seen higher amounts of Heroin and Methamphetamine than ever before.

He added, “Heroin is being cut with Fentanyl to make it more potent, you get a better high and more bang for your buck.” He said most people aren’t aware of this and said the results can be lethal.

To help the problem, Beaman said more people need to be aware of the medication that they’re taking, and Oklahoma needs to continue to prioritize mental health and addiction treatment. He said law enforcement has done a great job at seizing dangerous substances off the street.

The effects of the pandemic, Beaman said, have only made the issue worse. He said people commonly turn to substance abuse when they’re stressed and isolated.

He concluded, “The question isn’t why are so many drugs available in Oklahoma, the question is why do so many Oklahomans want to take drugs? And until we solve that problem, we’re going to continue this downward spiral and have large amounts of young, hopeful people dying every year.”





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