Quadrupled Overdose Deaths in Americans 65 and Older
A new report reveals a shocking increase in overdose deaths among Americans aged 65 and older. Over the past two decades, overdose deaths in this age group have quadrupled, with synthetic drugs like fentanyl playing a significant role in these fatalities.
Synthetic Opioid Deaths Rose by 53%
The report cites alarming statistics indicating a 53% increase in overdose deaths from synthetic opioids in just one year. Between 1999 and 2019, over 79,000 Americans aged 55 and older succumbed to opioid overdoses. The rate of overdose deaths has risen from 3 per 100,000 in 2002 to 12 per 100,000 in 2021.
Fentanyl Deaths Continue to Plague the U.S.
The United States has been grappling with a devastating surge in fentanyl-related deaths for years. Tens of thousands of deaths occur annually, with a staggering 75% of these cases involving an opioid, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Border Crisis and Illicit Fentanyl
Illicit fentanyl, predominantly produced in Mexico using Chinese precursors, is smuggled across the southern border of the U.S. This illicit drug trade occurs through both official ports of entry and clandestine routes. While the Biden administration attributes the increase in seizure of the drug to enhanced screening and technology at ports of entry, Republicans argue that the surge is a consequence of the ongoing border crisis, potentially allowing more of the deadly drug to enter the country.
Overdose Deaths Due to Contaminated Drugs
Many overdose deaths among older Americans result from unknowingly consuming pills or drugs contaminated with fentanyl. Even minuscule doses of fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin, can be fatal. The report highlights that older Americans at risk of overdoses from synthetic drugs are often long-term, stable users whose drugs become infected or individuals who resort to black-market prescriptions due to cost or the need to supplement their medication after being cut off from legal channels.
Urgent Need for Rethinking Policies and Increasing Awareness
The study emphasizes the limited information, research, and data on substance use among older Americans, which hinder effective policy responses. To address this crisis, the report recommends raising awareness among seniors about the lethal nature of synthetics like fentanyl, which are increasingly found in drugs such as Oxycodone, Xanax, and Adderall. It also calls for more research, data collection, and coordination between state and federal governments to better understand the extent of the impact on older populations.
Experts Urge Action to Combat Fentanyl Crisis
Lawmakers and experts stress the importance of tackling the fentanyl crisis at its source. Senator Braun, who has introduced legislation to impose severe penalties, including the death penalty, on drug traffickers, criticizes what he describes as a “minimalist border security policy” by the Biden administration. Braun asserts that fentanyl affects individuals of all ages, and the silent epidemic is robbing seniors of their golden years.
The release of this report precedes a committee hearing scheduled for Thursday morning, where experts and officials will provide testimony on the matter. The Biden administration has highlighted its commitment to combating the crisis through investments in technology, recovery, prevention, and international cooperation to curb smuggling.