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University Studies Confirm That the Drug Epidemic Is More Deadly Than Reported

Research from two prestigious national institutions, the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University, indicate that drug-related deaths for the 15-64 year-old population were 9 percent in 2016 – more than twice what it was 20 years ago. New research from these two schools indicate that the drug mortality rate may be more than twice that 9 percent figure.

The studies were reported in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed medical journal. The study was conducted by two demographers: Samuel Preston from Penn and Dana Glei from Georgetown. Preston is a professor in the Department of Sociology in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences and a research associate at the Population Studies Center. Glei is a senior research investigator in Georgetown’s Center for Population and Health. Their research found that in 2016:

  • 63,000 deaths were attributed to drugs – mostly drug poisoning. The study disclosed that the true number of drug-related deaths was about 142,000.
  • Drug use after age 15 decreased life expectancy by 1.4 years for men
  • Drug use among women 15 and older decreased life expectancy by 0.7 years.

The researchers analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They studied data from all 50 states including South Carolina for 15 age groups over 18 years. They found that deaths that were “coded” as drug deaths included drug overdoses and drug-related deaths due to mental health disorders. These coded deaths only represented about half of all drug-related deaths.

The team estimated “that for 15- to 64-year-olds, 34% of male deaths and 23% of female deaths in 2016 were attributable to drugs.”

While the study demonstrates that the scope of the drug epidemic is much worse than believed, the study does not explain the root causes. According to the PLOS ONE report there are two general theories for the high rate of drug-related deaths:

  1. An increased supply of drugs. This includes prescription drugs such as oxycontin, street drugs such as heroin, and fentanyl and other opioids.
  2. “Deaths of despair.” These are attributed to alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and suicide – which, in turn, are often caused by “deeper underlying causes.”

Preston states that further studies are needed to separate these two theories – the supply and the underlying causes.

Common drug-related charges related to substance abuse

It is these underlying causes, among others, that often cause people to need criminal defense lawyers for drug charges:

  • Anyone who drives a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or narcotics can be arrested for a DUI or a DUAC.
  • Illegal possession of drugs such as fentanyl that require a prescription can result in a criminal charge
  • Illegal possession and sale of controlled substances such as heroin and methamphetamines can also be prosecuted

Experienced criminal defense attorney A. Randolph Hough has been representing the accused in SC for decades. Our firm fights to obtain dismissals, acquittals, and fair plea bargains. Call The Law Offices of A. Randolph Hough, P.A. at 803.771.4119, or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We have offices in Columbia and Charleston.