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The opioid epidemic, which has been the source of innumerable headlines, studies, policy decisions, costs the U.S. more than $500 billion per year, according to some estimates.

Tens of thousands of lives are also lost annually. 

But despite all this effort, and all this waste, the toll actually continues to grow. New CDC numbers released today showed that opioid overdoses increased a staggering 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017.

The emergency department admission data is quicker to be released and gathered than death certificate information – and indicates that the tidal surge of overdoses continues to gather strength, officials said.

“This fast-moving epidemic affects both men and women, and people of every age,” said Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s acting director. “It does not respect state or county lines and is still increasing in every region in the United States.”

The data are based on visits to emergency departments from 52 jurisdictions in 45 states over the course of the year of study, as part of the National Syndromic Surveillance Program BioSense platform, which uses a program called ESSENCE, short for Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics). 

Large central metropolitan areas with populations of 1 million or more showed a 54 percent increase, their data shows.

The Midwest experienced a 70 percent increase over that time, a spike that was driven by rises in Wisconsin of 109 percent, Illinois at 66 percent, and Indiana at 35 percent.

Other major outbreaks of overdoses included a 105 percent increase in Delaware, an 81 percent increase in Pennsylvania, and a 34 percent increase in Maine.

Modest decreases were seen in Kentucky, at 15 percent, and statistically insignificant drops of less than 10 percent in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

The federal agency made a series of policy recommendations, most of which are already being implemented at large scale in many areas. Distribution of naloxone, an overdose-reversal measure, could be distributed to not only first responders, but also to friends and family of people who are drug users. Increased data flow to respond to overdose increases would speed response by officials, the CDC adds. Increasing treatment services, medical support programs, and the medication-assisted treatment programs including methadone or other drugs would also potentially curb repeat overdose cases. To prevent further addiction cases, the wider use of prescription drug monitoring programs could be used to help guide clinical practice, argue the health experts.

President Donald Trump formally declared the opioid epidemic a “public health emergency” in October, the month after the study period ended. That 90-day emergency declaration was renewed at the end of January – but made no additional funding available to institute program, according to accounts.

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