Yesterday, we talked about how the U.S. recorded the biggest-ever, one-year increase in homicides during the earliest part of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
So, today, let’s talk about another HUGE problem made worse by the government’s mismanagement of the pandemic.
Sadly, it involves another tragic issue that touches almost every family in America in one way or another…
Opioid drug epidemic is far worse than we thought
As we all know, America remains in the midst of a huge opioid drug abuse epidemic. Although this problem began long before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the government’s draconian public health measures during the pandemic have certainly made it worse.
For example, coronavirus-related shutdowns deny access to non-drug, hands-on approaches to pain management (such as acupuncture, bodywork, massage, meditation, and yoga). And this knee-jerk overreaction to a virus with less than a 2 percent mortality rate (at worst) has left MILLIONS of Americans without safe options to deal with their pain.
So, they end up turning to dangerous and addictive pain drugs.
But according to this shocking, new investigation, the opioid abuse problem is likely TWICE AS BAD as we thought! In fact, a staggering percentage of fatal drug overdoses across the country are misdiagnosed as sudden cardiac arrest deaths.
Medical Examiners are overwhelmed and understaffed
For this new investigation, researchers looked at more than 525 deaths originally ruled as “out-of-hospital cardiac arrests” (OHCAs) in the San Francisco area.
These deaths occur outside of the hospital, as the name suggests, without a doctor present to certify cause of death. As a result, the body is sent to a Medical Examiner (ME) to determine the cause of death in a postmortem examination.
But according to the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Zian Tseng of the University of California, San Francisco, “Medical examiners and coroners have limited resources. They don’t have the bandwidth or the funding or the manpower to investigate all these natural deaths, so they are presumed cardiac on death certificates 90 percent of the time.”
But far too often, that presumption is WRONG!
In fact, researchers found, upon closer inspection by a large panel of experts, that about 15 percent (or about one out of every six) of the supposed OHCA deaths were actually drug overdose deaths. The most common class of drugs in the missed overdose deaths? Opioids, sedatives-hypnotics, and stimulants.
This finding means that national overdose fatality rates, as bad as they already appear, are probably far worse than we thought! For example, in 2016, there were about 380,000 OHCAs nationwide. And about 60,000 of them were originally ruled as overdose deaths.
But if we apply the same ratio of one-out-of-every-six to numbers nationwide…it means that another 60,000 deaths were actually overdose deaths—not cardiac deaths.
That’s DOUBLE the original number! And it’s probably only gotten worse since the start of pandemic, as we continue to stretch Medical Examiners even thinner.
Dr. Tseng said, we know “drug overdose deaths are hiding in plain sight as sudden cardiac deaths. This is happening in every community throughout the country and in every country in the world, because unless you do toxicology in every cardiac arrest, you won’t recognize it.”
Believe me, mistakes happen. Even in stellar ME offices…
Even good Medical Examiners miss signs
During the mid-1980s, I served as an Assistant State Medical Examiner for Miami-Dade County, Florida. It was at the height of the “Miami Vice” days. And my office was the busiest (per capita) in the country.
We had thousands of cases each year and missed finding the ultimate manner of death on maybe two or three occasions during my tenure. And even that was a big deal!
Then, about 10 years ago, I served as a consulting forensic pathologist in a court case involving a doctor about to lose his license to practice medicine in Pennsylvania. (The doctor was also being prosecuted for negligent homicide!)
Basically, the doctor had prescribed several prescription drugs to a sick patient who ended up dying by overdose. But the ME on the case hadn’t bothered to really analyze the levels of the multiple over-the-counter (OTC) drugs present in the patient’s body at the time of death.
Well, it turns out, all the drugs prescribed by the doctor were at normal, therapeutic levels…or lower. Yet, the OTC drugs—obtained directly by the patient without a prescription—were the ones at fatal levels.
So, the prescribing doctor was innocent, and the charges were dropped, after a huge amount of wasted time and money. All because somebody (namely, me) did the simple arithmetic to figure it out.
Now, the ME on that case is a very smart and knowledgeable man. He even achieved great fame for figuring out the cause of long-term head injuries in football players. So, if that kind of obvious issue can slip past him, you know there’s a problem with the OHCAs.
In the end, if you or someone you know is suffering in pain, I encourage you to investigate the many safe and effective therapeutic approaches for relief…instead of resorting to dangerous, harmful drugs.
You can learn about which mind-body approaches will work best for you personally in my books: New World Mindfulness and Overcoming Acute and Chronic Pain: Keys to Treatment Based on Your Emotional Type.
In addition, as the coronavirus restrictions continue to drag on, I suggest you take some practical steps to support your overall immunity and your mood, including spending more time in Nature, finding your own relief from strong feelings, and supplementing daily with 250 mcg (10,000 IU) of vitamin D.