Opioid-related Overdoses and Deaths Continue to Surge Despite Nearly 45% Reduction in Opioid Prescribing in the Past Decade

The American Medical Association (AMA) issued a report in 2021 showing a 44.4% decrease in opioid prescribing nationwide in the past decade. Despite this decrease, the country is facing a worsening drug-related overdose and death epidemic. Across the country, the nation continues to see increases in overdose mainly due to illicit fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, methamphetamine, and cocaine.1

Opioids are a class of drug prescribed legally by doctors for pain, but also include the illegal drug heroin. These drugs can help relieve severe pain, but unfortunately, are highly addictive– many times within 5 days of first use. People who no longer have access to the legally prescribed drugs may seek to purchase opioids illegally. According to the DOJ, fentanyl, an opioid that is practically and effectively 50-100 times more potent than heroin or prescription opioids, is often used to adulterate heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other “street drugs.”2

There were more than 100,000 overdose deaths in 2021—a 28.5% surge from the record numbers we saw in 2020. Nearly 75% of all overdoses involved opioids, 65% involved illicitly manufactured fentanyl and analogues, and 14% involved prescription opioids.2

Overdose Trends Across the Country
When it comes to overdoses caused by opioids, the highest rates of death were in West Virginia, where 49.6 out of every 100,000 persons died from an opioid-involved overdose. Second was Ohio, with an opioid overdose death rate of 39.2. The third highest rates of death occurred in Washington, D.C., at 34.7.3

A Critical Crisis Requiring a Complex Solution
In response to the opioid crisis, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is focusing its efforts on five major priorities:4

  1. improving access to treatment and recovery services
  2. promoting use of overdose-reversing drugs
  3. strengthening our understanding of the epidemic through better public health surveillance
  4. providing support for cutting-edge research on pain and addiction
  5. advancing better practices for pain management

“The increase in overdose deaths is concerning,” Deb Houry, the director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control stated. “CDC’s Injury Center continues to help and support communities responding to the evolving overdose crisis. Our priority is to do everything we can to equip people on the ground to save lives in their communities.”5

Opioid use disorder and addiction, coupled with the strain of navigating a pandemic presents a complex multi-faceted treatment problem. Of particular concern is that a rapid or sudden reduction of opioids results in severe withdrawal symptoms which can lead users to seek relief through additional drugs that can lead to overdose.

Speranza Therapeutics S.T. Genesis can play a pivotal role in reducing withdrawal symptoms many opioid-dependent patients face when attempting to stop or reduce use. The FDA-cleared device supports the reduction of opioid withdrawal symptoms by targeting the areas of the brain responsible for pain and anxiety. The noninvasive, drug-free device is easily applied to the ear by any provider and administers treatment for 5 days helping the patient during the most critical time as they reduce opioid use. The device has proven clinical efficacy in reducing opioid withdrawal symptoms by up to 93% within the first hour, most occurring within 15 minutes.



  1. https://www.ama-assn.org/press-center/press-releases/report-shows-decreases-opioid-prescribing-increase-overdoses
  2. https://drugpolicy.org/issues/drug-overdose
  3. https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/opioid-epidemic-by-state
  4. https://nida.nih.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis