Disturbing Numbers

image if pills

The No. 1 cause of accidental death in the United States is no longer vehicle accidents. It’s accidental drug overdoses, and has been since 2010. And the numbers keep getting worse. Prescription drugs account for almost one-third of drug overdoses and 75 percent of the prescription drug overdoses are attributed to opioids, which are among the most common and dangerous prescription pills.

U.S. Accidental Drug Overdose Deaths

  • 2014: 42 per day
  • 2015: 62 per day
  • 2016: 91 per day

Opioids are synthetic heroin. Many believe that since they are prescription pills – though not prescribed to them – they are safe.

In Missouri, in 2016, hospitals reported receiving more than 16,000 patients who had overdosed on heroin. There were more than 900 deaths that resulted from heroin overdoses.

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Missouri State Highway Patrol Responds

In September in the St. Louis area, in separate incidents, road troopers encountered two motorists who had overdosed on opioids and called for naloxone. When the ambulance arrived, the naloxone was administered and each person survived.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol works to interdict narcotics with local and federal law enforcement agencies. The Patrol also conducts numerous drug education programs at schools, universities, businesses and to civic groups across the state.

On Aug. 30, 2017, Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers from across the state learned about administering the heroin/opioid antidote naloxone to save lives in overdose cases.

On Aug. 30, 2017, Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers from across the state learned about administering the heroin/opioid antidote naloxone to save lives in overdose cases.

Additionally, the Patrol works extensively on education partly through a Prescription Drug Misuse Workgroup. The workgroup includes representatives from different medical fields, including pharmacists, doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, the Missouri Department of Health, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

The workgroup continues to look at ways to address the problem of misuse from multiple angles including education, treatment, enforcement, and monitoring.

Following Gov. Eric Greitens’ Executive Order 17-19, Patrol superintendent Col. Sandra Karsten directed the Patrol to prepare to carry and be able to administer the opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone. On Aug. 30, Patrol members from the Division of Drug and Crime Control and all troops took part in training on administering naloxone, as the Patrol continues to prepare to furnish the overdose reversal to troopers in the field.

Heroin Seizures by Missouri State Highway Patrol (in grams)

2011: 156 (0 lbs 6 oz)
2012: 104 (0 lbs 4 oz)
2013: 672 (1 lbs 8 oz)
2014: 817 (1 lbs 13 oz)
2015: 5,178 (11 lbs)
2016: 41,474 (91 lbs)

The Patrol seized 7 lbs. of heroin during a single 2015 traffic stop

The Patrol seized 7 lbs. of heroin during a single 2015 traffic stop.

Increasing Identification of Heroin by Highway Patrol Crime Labs

Year 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Positive Test for Heroin 56 327 474 1025 979 944 1041 1424 1156
Chart of opiate type as a percentage of total opiates identifiied by MSHP Lab