CHICAGO (CBS) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sounded an alarm Tuesday over a troubling trend in Illinois — a dramatic rise in emergency room visits for suspected overdoses.
“With the attention that this is getting, it’s very disappointing that we’re seeing these increases,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC Acting Director.
The CDC says data from emergency rooms shows the opioid epidemic is still growing.
From July 2016 through September 2017:
- Overdoses were up for men, women, in all age groups and in all regions;
- ER visits for suspected overdoses up 70 percent in the Midwest;
- And up 66 percent in Illinois alone.
Dr. Steven Aks says the emergency room at Stroger Hospital went from 1,000 overdoses in 2006 to 5,000 in 2016.
“I never imagined that overdose deaths would exceed car accidents, gun violence — it’s become the number one cause of accidental death,” Aks said.
The CDC says the increase is likely due to the third wave of the epidemic: First it was prescription drugs, then street heroin, now illicitly produced and toxic fentanyl.
“And, so we think there probably is not an increase in people using drugs, but there is an increase in the danger associated with a single use,” Schuchat said.
Chelsea Laliberte lost her 20-year-old brother Alex 10 years ago.
“I’m angry. I’m so angry I can’t even feel it anymore,” Laliberte said upon hearing the numbers. “It’s so hard to know that people are still dying from this.”
Laliberte, now a mental health counselor and addiction specialist, blames stigma, and the state, for not implementing strategies like medication assisted treatment in the ER.
“If there wasn’t treatment available for cancer, I mean, this would be an uproar — that would never happen. But this is what’s going on with addiction and mental illness right now.”
There were a few states in New England, as well as Kentucky, that showed decreases in ER visits related to opioid overdoses. The CDC plans to look at them very closely to learn how that was accomplished.