CDC: Opioid Deaths and Overdoses Too High

CDC: Opioid Deaths and Overdoses Too High

The CDC is continuing to beat the drum about the dangers of opioid use.

It claims that Opioids - primarily prescription pain relievers and heroin - are the main driver of overdose deaths. Opioids were involved in 28,647 deaths in 2014 and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 2000.

In a press release out late Friday, it said “to reverse the epidemic of opioid drug overdose deaths and prevent opioid-related morbidity, efforts to improve safer prescribing of prescription opioids must be intensified.”

The CDC also says while the amount of people reporting pain is about the same, opioid pain reliever prescribing has quadrupled since 1999 and has increased in parallel with overdoses involving the most commonly used opioid pain relievers.

This press release comes out after a particularly rocky week for the agency.

It had to backtrack on its opioid prescribing guidelines after a Washington law firm challenged the process that developed those guidelines. The Washington Legal Foundation essentially told the agency to start over. (Here’s our story on it).

In the letter to Dr. Tom Frieden, Director for CDC and Dr. Debra Houry, Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, WLF charges that “state governments and the medical community are unlikely to accept any guidelines tainted by charges that they were prepared in secret without meaningful stakeholder input and with the assistance of individuals who have serious conflicts of interest.”

A letter written by attorneys Richard Samp and Mark Chenoweth of WLF said in part, “The outcry that has arisen with respect to the current proceedings was entirely predictable in light of the secretive manner in which CDC conducted them”.  (Here’s the full letter)

The CDC opened (or reopened) the public comment period until mid-January. Many National Pain Readers have asked how to submit their comments. Here are some suggestions from Terri Lewis, PhD, a public health critic (and mother and daughter of chronic pain sufferers.)

Tips on how to comment to the CDC about opioid guidelines.

The CDC report sees one clear trend.

“The sharp increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids, other than methadone, in 2014 coincided with law enforcement reports of increased availability of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid; however, illicitly manufactured fentanyl cannot be distinguished from prescription fentanyl in death certificate data,” the report reads.

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

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The death of PRINCE will be the spring board the government will use to call for the complete shutdown on opiates for pain.

The toxicology report isn’t back yet but I’m willing to bet it will show the cause of death to be some sort of pain medication or heroin.

People will say ” if it can happen to PRINCE it can happen to anyone ”

With no cause found from the autopsy then the cause is in the Tox report - meaning poison or drugs.

They won’t say he was an addict or if he was Dr shopping they will only say ” wow, what a great guy he was and these terrible drugs took his life “. None of the blame will fall on Prince.

This will move so fast it will make your head spin

Thank you

John S


I am 78 years old, still working on real estate and construction. I sustained back and neck injuries in 1972 and have have chronic and sometimes acute pain in those areas. I have taken prescribed hydrocone since that time. For the past year, because of government I have had to go in for a checkup every 30 days. Now my physician says I have to go to another pain clinic for prescriptions. It’s amazing! I have been to three pain clinics over the past 20 years an have scores of lumbar injections, a trial stimulator in my spine and other dangerous procedures. I have had 4 lumbar fusions. I have never abused drugs of any kind and can function, work and enjoy my family with 3 or 4 500/325 hydrocodone tablets a day. And in my 78 years I have never known anyone who died from hydrocodone overdose. I strongly suspect the CDC has invented the recent stats they released!

paul clay

Yes there’s alot of scripts filled, but back to the protecting the addict. So since most doctors quit writing pain medicine leaving us to go to pain specialist. Here’s what happened to the addict. They couldn’t get pills so to he streets they went buying heroin many times laced with fentanyl causing massive overdoses. I work in the ER I see them. And overdose deaths from heroin have skyrocketed through the roof. So if the CDC only goal was to get prescription drugs out of the addicts hands then you succeded. If you were trying to cut down on overdose and OD deaths then you failed!!!!! Miserably. Listen to me. I know what im talking about. The addict will always find a way. If you really want to protect them then make it mandatory to get that shot that releases narcan if they take an opiod and continue it as part of probation. The drug works. They only need ot once a month. You have only affected honest people in pain ànd people in the cdc and government will one day needs these medicines and only then will you see the affect your REFORM has had on the general public. You will watch your loved ones suffer with tylenol when they should have been getting morphine.

Justine Saine

I agree that its because of the restrictions,the profiling at pharmacies and the price gouging! When i first started taking pain meds i only knew two other ppl ho took meds, only one place in Georgia to purchase herion and it didnt matter because noone needed it. I started off getting 3 prescriptions (2pain,1anxiety-xanax) then they banned xanax with the pain meds, i was only paying around $380 for all 3 but then it got crazy one got so hard to find i told the doc he could keep them! Lately ive been back on a long term med but nothing was working so i ask to just get more breakthrough,they just work better,but that one prescription cost close to $500 alone! Now add that to the $250 office visit pkus $50 per month for drug screens…and i thought the dea only called for 4 a yr!? So now either ppl cant get thier meds because drs wont write or pharmacies wont fill,or charge too much. And now that im on a higher mg of my med i cant find them as i write,i ask if i could get dbl the amount if they gave me half strength but no! Id have to get a new script,but the dr.isnt going to write that qty on a script! Makes no sense its th same medication,same ! Now,ive known at least four or five ppl whove odd on herion,the dealers have got smart and started sending ppl out to the surrounding counties and suburbs just to pick up the slack that the laws have forced upon us. Yes,i could get herion delivered to my door,but i dont know whats in that crap! One guy told me his ppl cutvit with fentanyl,not just powder or liquid but patches! Wtf! And yes,its cheaper…$20 and itll last all day as to where ppl are taking 3/4 of one thing and 4/5 of another everyday! I can see why,but why do that to yoyrself when its gonna cause you to not feel your meds,fail your drugscreen,get kicked out of the dr! Which has probably already happened to make them wanta go get herion,they are probably oding on purpose! Poor things,depressed,in pain,noone understands,the looks you get,the comments are so rude! Pain shamming is out there with a vengeance! Its no joke,none of this is funny! Not even trained,educated doctors know what we feel or go through on a daily! Ive read american med board sites,the ethics,laes,etc. You think any doctors/pharmacies adhere to these guidelines!? Nope! Do we stand up for our rights!? Nope! Why,because were too afraid theyre just gonna blacklist us or kick us out which they do after they take that money though! Then were broke,and cant get into another dr! And from what ive read its not even legal! Theyre supposed to ween you off or give you time to find another dr. Supposedly,they cant just stop writting if it could cause harm to the patient or nyone living with the patient! What you… Read more »

Nancy R

This has always been a question to me. How do they collect data? Is it an estimate taken from a small sample? Do they include people that die from other causes? Such as heart patients, hospice patients…many of these take opioids for comfort.
I also agree that more effort should be spent on bad heroin and preventing this from showing up in every community.

Doc Anonymous

While the DEA and the media continue to assault medically managed pain (as opposed to interventionally managed pain) as the primary source of opioid overdose deaths, it is perhaps telling to look at data from Philadelphia for the year 2014. Keep in mind that there is no lab test for heroin, but it is metabolized to various forms of morphine. But here are the 10 most commonly detected drugs in people who died from overdose:

1. Morphine 350
2. Cocaine 273
3. Alprazolam 172 (Xanax)
4. Ethanol 125
5. Fentanyl 100
6. Clonazepam 100 (Klonopin)
8. Diazepam 83
9. Methadone 62 (Valium)
10 Citalopram 62 (Celexa, an antidepressant)

Note the absence of Hydrocodone, or its metabolite, Hydromorphone. These numbers, while coming from a single city are indicative of just how much misbranding of legitimate pain treatment has taken over the medical profession! Any overdose from oxycodone or hydrocodone or any other prescribed drug is one too many, but look at where the deaths are really occurring: Heroin and illicit fentanyl.

These numbers come from the Feds themselves in an article in slide format about the dramatically increasing numbers of illicit fentanyl, mostly being smuggled in from China and being sold on the streets as a white powder that is mixed with other drugs like heroin.

But the CDC wants to fish for minnows while the true source of the crime goes scott free. It was only in 2015 that China agreed to place some restrictions on the export of fentanyl derivatives, exports that had only one purpose: feed the addicts and had no use whatever in the legitimate management of pain.

You can access the full report at:

Scott michaels


@Scott your calculations give them more credit than they deserve.. there are an estimated 106 million chronic painers…
The do claim that there is 259 million opiate Rx/yr filled … Recommended therapy for chronic pain is one long acting and one short acting for breakthru pain..
If you presume that 25% of those 259 million are for acute issues .. leaving 195 million to treat chronic painers…
Presuming that each Rx is for a 30 day supply…
So abt 8 million chronic painers could get recommended therapy (abt 7%).. (195 million/24 rxs/pt/yr)
While 259 million is easy to state that it is enough for a Rx for every person in the country.. which is correct.. but.. leaving close to 100 chronic painers WITHOUT ANY THERAPY AT ALL. Let’s talk about the need for having 2.5 BILLION Rxs/yr filled to properly treat chronic painers alone

Kristine (Krissy)

Scott - the numbers are baffling. I wish I were a fly on the wall when they come up with them. You are doing a great service all by yourself by making comments on these articles. Keep them up! I get two opioid Rx’s a month also. I read someone’s story today whose parents each get three.

Scott michaels

What funny is, these geniuses arent even doing the math on the nombers they a pulling out of their butts.
They said there were 259 million prescriptions written in 2014, there are 20 million people that have chronic pain and 17000 deaths.
WELL EVERY CHRONIC PAIN PATIENT GETS AT LEAST ONE OF THE PRESCRIPTIONS EVERY MONTH. 20 MILLION PEOPLE IS 240 MILLION PRESCRIPTIONS. So are there only 19 million prescriptions wriiten for everybody else. they continuiously lie to the media and public. I get 2 prescriptions monthly and i know many people get the same or more. To make matters worse, they have yet to produce 1 person that passed away from pain relievers when they tlake as directed.Isnt there 1 atty out there that can do something to help this suffering class of citizens?


Gun control is in the news everyday maybe not for suicide but its there.

I’m an NRA member. There are already plenty of gun laws in place now.

Suicide caused by under treated pain or un treated pain is said to be as high as Heroin deaths - over 17,000 last year.

Dorian W

Both of my parents have morphene pumps and take diladud amd oxycodone. They have done this for at least 10 years. They do great because of the pain medication. If theyre are cut back as the CDC REQUESTS, I AM CONFIDENT I WILL GO TO THEIR HOUSE ONE DAY AND THEYWILL BE DEAD. THE ONLY REASON IS BEACUSE OUR GOVT DECIDED TO PUT TO SENIOR. CITIZENS IN EXCRUCIATING PAIN THAT WAS SO UNBEARABLE LIFE WASNT WORTH LIVING

Carla Cheshire

A couple things. Does anyone take into consideration that the population of our country is continually growing? In blaming Rx opioids for overdoes deaths does anyone take into consideration that some people are trying to commit suicide? Look at US gun death statistics for 2013. The number of homicides was 11,208 and the number of suicides was 21,175. Suicides are almost DOUBLE! This leads me to believe that suicides by opioid drugs are a large portion of the overdoses. These people are trying to die and looking for an easy, painless way to do it. Why is it OK to commit suicide by gun and wrong by drug? I have never heard anyone complain that suicides by gun are too high so we should restrict access to guns. Have you?

Dee Green

As referenced in a previous comment- the numbers that the CDC is putting out to the media change with every week! Oct=16,000 deaths Now (no new study) =23,000 deaths- the data is being manipulated & is not reliable! The Propaganda machine is at work everyday😔 Prohibition didn’t end alcohol consumption or manufacturing & opioid limits on Chronic Pain patients won’t stop addicts from abusing heroin or other substances, they just change the substance! Who gets hurt?- The 100 million people in the US who suffer from chronic pain 😔 UNGASS has called a special session in April to address member nations refusing pain care to Chronic Pain sufferer worldwide, by passing Prohibitionist policies (DEA, CDC & PROP are well aware of the special session being called!

1. ” It claims that Opioids – primarily prescription pain relievers and heroin – are the main driver of overdose deaths. Opioids were involved in 28,647 deaths in 2014 and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 2000.” The CDC blames prescription pain meds for the jump to heroin use = the patient is blamed for those prescription meds getting into the hands of the addicts that use them along with heroin. Doctors write the prescriptions for the patients so they get hounded by the DEA, forcing doctors to close up shop for their pain clinic leaving patients with no pain control that works for those patients that need the opioids. We have all seen and heard how hard it is for people to be prescribed opioids for pain, have we not ? That being the case how is it that there is still a plethora of prescription pain meds getting into the hands of drug addicts ? This makes no sense to me but why would it. The CDC is going to use numbers that make their point for them. Law Enforcement, especially the organized crime units will most certainly tell anyone that asks - most drugs that hit the street are coming from major thefts in large quantities. 2. The CDC also says while the amount of people reporting pain is about the same, opioid pain reliever prescribing has quadrupled since 1999 and has increased in parallel with overdoses involving the most commonly used opioid pain relievers. Recently I saw an article that said there are now 113 million people in the US that suffer from chronic pain - up from 100 million. Of those 113 million that will need opioids for their pain is a number I cant find. Another increase is the number of veterans that have turned to the private sector for help treating their pain. The VA uses mainly methadone to treat pain now and doctors at the VA are told to avoid opioids in any dose for any length of time. Either way the CDC or the DEA and all the other agencies and groups that are hoping to take opioids off of the list of medications used to treat pain ( acute or chronic ) don’t seem to care about who gets hurt if the meds are taken away. Think about the patient who needs the meds, take them away and look how many others suffer - the spouse or caretaker - the children to. If one person has their meds taken away it can destroy an entire family and the lives of those they interact with on a daily basis. Jobs will be lost and not just by the patient but everyone connected to the patient. This is why such a large number of those same patients will take a good long look at suicide. The daily pain and the strain put back onto the family unit will be overwhelming for the pain patient and suicide will seem like the ‘loving’ thing to… Read more »

Mark ibsen

The complications of opioid use have actually diminished on a per capita basis.
That is to say if you plot the amount of opiates prescribed autograph against complications from opiates the complication rate has actually dropped.
The CDC of all agencies ought to know how to analyze statistics, and unfortunately how to abuse them.

In fact, it is safe to say the statistics have been abused far more often than Prescription opioids themselves.

Attacking doctors who prescribed opiates is like attacking car dealers who sell cars to people who crashed them. It is bizarre, unreasonable, and has an ulterior motive.

Doc Anonymous

The numbers depict the utter failure of the DEA and DOJ to control the illicit channels of supply of heroin and other opioids. They would rather pad their numbers by attacking legitimate doctors rather than the criminals that are manufacturing illegal fentanyl. The DEA has absolutely NO control over the flow of illegal drugs. It is not the legitimate pain patients that are swelling the number of deaths. It is the addicts and the recreational users and the DEA’s failure to exert meaningful control of the illicit drugs is doing a disservice to the addicts who do not get treatment. Furthermore the ready availability of naloxone would put a big dent into the number of deaths, but the FDA only approved the easy to use nasal form last month, The benefits of nasally administered naloxone in reducing overdose deaths has been well documented for at least 5 years. The misguided war on pain patients and their legitimate doctors harms not only the pain patients, but also the addicts and yes even the recreational users.

A new approach is needed, but it does not look like the FDA, DEA, and DOJ and the departmental leaders have the global vision to effectively address the problem. It is time for them to stop acting like they are writing TV CSI scripts. The lives of too many Americans are at stake and the deaths continue to skyrocket under the decades old approach now in vogue. And that says nothing of the miserable torture that chronic pain patients will endure for the rest of their lives as they cannot get adequate pain relief.


This is the fault of the D.E.A. and the F.D.A. By attacking doctors who are afraid to prescribe medication it is forcing pain suffer’s to go to other, unsupervised, sources. This entire drug problem is caused and supported by these renegade, Authoritarian, law enforcement groups . The continue to miss-appropriate and commandeer billions in ir war on the civil and human rights.

Kristine (Krissy)

And, consider the population and where it stands. The baby boomers make up a large part, and we’re getting older. Even if some didn’t need pain meds early in life, a lot do now.

Kimberly Cornilsen

The statistics of increased opoid prescibing vs. Same number of patients may have something to do with advances in science that emphasize health consiquences of uncontrolled pain.

Kristine (Krissy)

In my opinion the Centers for Disease Control (a U.S. government agency) has issued a number of press releases recently, which have resulted in a huge (possibly viral) number of articles being published all over the U.S. in newspapers, online papers, medical journals, (magazines, TV and other media. These releases are tainting the numbers and facts about people who use narcotic medication for pain. Each editor who picks up the story puts their own spin on it, to the point of saying “All Opioid Users are Addicts.” (And there are worse headlines than that.) Further, the comments after the articles are mainly absurd.
This action, in my opinion, is to sway the comments in the currently delayed guidelines the CDC is writing on prescribing opioid medicines. The guidelines were delayed mostly because advocates like me, many, many organizations and other individuals, who help people in pain, have made comments and written articles that have made them realize we are crying out. But tainted numbers and facts about drug use are being published in these articles so that our advocacy is being drowned. This is a sneaky use of the media, and there are other sneaky and even illegal things going on with the government and the use of many medications that people need to know about. Media are purposefully neglecting to mention patients in chronic intractable pain who need these medications. We all know there are drug abusers, dealers, cartels, and the woman next door who sell and abuse drugs. They always will be around us. But let us not pay with our pain because we are left out.


The. Deaths went higher because of your current restrictions trying to reduce abuse. Instead here’s what happened. All PCPs in Wv ie Internal Medicine, Family Practice docs stopped writing any scripts for pain forcing pain patients to board certified. Pain docs. . So what happens. Legitimate people now drive 50 miles and the opiod abusers went to the streets to get heroin and as a result we saw the highest numbers of Overdose than any other time in history.
Theres enough controls in place. . To many actually.
The day will come when you yourself will need pain medicine, but you will get a Tylenol and only then will you realize what you have done.
Your committees should have at least a couple of chronic pain patients on these panels.

Enough oversight

Scott michaels



Ed let readers know about the association between WLF and opioids-
Its interesting that WLF showed no concern when independent and diverse thought didnt exist on the 2011 IOM report on pain care- or the National Pain Strategy. The NPS only mentions opioids as a specific treatment for pain So, I guess, WLF considered the NPS the product of no bias- as if the researchers who helped develop the IOM report didnot receive substantial research grants shortly after they participated in the IOM report- like Sean Mackey didnt receive a multi-million dollar grant for research right after participating in the IOM report.
The NPR was not transparent- NIH refused my freedom of information request last year-when the draft of the report was completed- and now - 6 months after the comment period for the NPS- where is it hiding? Just as Dr Terman indicated he didnt know when or how the NPS would be implemented- i dont see the WLF concerned about transparency or bias with regard to opioids Perhaps the WLF is really concerned that opioid economy continues to grow.
So Ed, lets have the whole story about the WLF and pain care in America.

Doc Anonymous

Synthetic illicitly produced fentanyl is a major factor in the increased “opioid” deaths, especially when it is combined with heroin. I guess the pain patients will be blamed for this as well. I believe this is the first time the DEA and DOJ have verbalized that the opioid death epidemic is due to anything other than legitimately prescribed, dispensed and utilized by the true chronic pain patient. If the DEA and DOJ spin this one to pin it on the legitimate pain patients and their doctors it will only serve to set in concrete the prejudicial concepts and bigoted actions that have constituted the war on pain patients, with the patients serving as the strawmen for the true illicit drug traffickers and addicts and recreational users.


I am always interested in reading the data that is used for statistics. In the study showing most heroin users use prescrption opioids first. Their data is from 54 patient studies…out of 150 treatment facilities who submitted 9,000 patients information. I have read other studies that relied on equally small amounts of data. I still am not sure of the data for opioid and heroin deaths and overdoses. How was that data collected? To me these stufies are using funky data to prove a point that may not exist.

Scott michaels

Here we go again, another 1 sided story with false numbers. I just read a similar article on news max. i suggest you email the author of the article and tell him our side. ask him to write an article about those of us that arent using or planning on using heroin because we take our medicine as directed. I wroe him and i encourage some of you to do the same.

I find it interesting that the base year to compare is the year before we experienced the highest single death rate from a terrorist attack in our 200+ yr history. Likewise we have had double or triple unemployment than in the past.. We have had a dramatic increase in the number of people on Medicare/SS disability.. Wages are virtually stagnant while the FEDS misrepresents that we don’t have price inflation.. All of these issues and other not mentioned are impacting our society in a negative fashion. Which must be having a equally negative mental impact on many. We know that alcohol consumption goes up with unemployment/bad times… Could it be that many more are choosing some other substance than alcohol to deal with all of these mental issues and self-medicating the demons in their head and/or monkeys on their back. How many other chronic diseases - other than subjective diseases - have to fight to get adequate treatment. The fact is that healthcare professionals are getting pushed to get people with other chronic disease issues to become more compliant with their medication therapy… at the same time they are increasingly denying pts with subjective diseases adequate therapy. #painedlivesmatter


Shut the **** up! If your children lived with chronic pain, or if you would be a whole different article. We don’t take pills because we like it. We take it to get to have some sort of asshats

Chuck Booth

Great reporting National Pain Report. Thanks for looking out for us all. The CDC is overstepping its role and stepping into FDA’s job. Gotta ask why? Anyone have an idea?

Doc Anonymous

According to a CDC publication that was updated on 10/16/2015, there were 16,000 opioid related deaths in 2013, the last year for which data is available. (“Of the 22,767 deaths relating to prescription drug overdose in 2013, 16,235 (71.3%) involved opioid painkillers, and 6,973 (30.6%) involved benzodiazepines.”)

According to the article you cite, the CDC is now, 2 months later, saying the number of opioid related deaths is 26,000+. Something does not add up and it looks to me like the CDC is not being very scientific about this issue. But then, maybe they have been employing PROP-Logic.

In all seriousness this kind of number escalation without explanation is extremely disheartening when it comes from a government agency.

Dorian W

Omce again the peole at PROP ARE SPOUTING LIES.
A. most of those deats were in states that restrict opioid use. so people are running to the streets or committing suicide due to extreme pain and no medical help.

B. they are combining all.deaths where opioids were.present in the.blood. death could.have been natural or totally non related to the opioids. yet they try toake it look worse then it is

C. Even if this is true 50 million other people are taking opioids for chronic pain and it helps them a great deal


Terri Lewis

Then they need to clean up the reporting process and address death certificates, which are simply not sufficient as a data collection tool. Nor are the local coroners trained well enough to call this issue. So if they are basing their decisions and pronouncements on junk data, then the public mobilization is also fraught with junky logic. Making wholesale pronouncements and recommendations is junk science in this case.
Just saying.