Just when we thought that the American opioid epidemic could not get any more serious, new research shows that it may be worse than we originally thought. A new study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine revealed that opioid-related deaths in 2014 were under-reported by many states throughout the U.S. Deaths from opioids in 2014 were 24 percent higher than previously estimated, with heroin deaths also found to be 22 percent higher than originally reported. In total, the death count from opioids increased from nearly 29,000 to over 35,000.
It appears that the states most at fault for this under-reporting included Indiana, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Alabama and Mississippi, where corrected opioid death rates were actually 100 percent higher than the original estimates. An examination of death certificates found that many poisoning deaths had not been correctly identified as being caused by opioids.
The only explanation for the discrepancy in numbers is errors made by local medical officials who may not have had the proper tools to correctly diagnose the cause of death. Since there is no national standard of what counts as an opioid overdose, results are often inconsistent from state to state. This new data may have an impact on legislation as it refers to controls for opioid prescriptions and distribution.