With 64000 overdose deaths in the United States last year, death resulting from drug overdose is now the leading cause of death amongst Americans under the age of 50 years.
This figure is a 22% increase from the number of overdose deaths recorded in the previous year, and the nation currently finds itself in the grips of the worst drug epidemic in its history.
So common is the occurrence of death by overdose that is has had the effect of reducing the overall age of life expectancy in the United States!
With routine autopsies to confirm cause of death taking roughly two hours each, medical examiners are finding themselves overwhelmed and many are leaving the profession.
“I’m not an alarmist by nature, but this is not overhyped. It has completely overwhelmed us,” said Dr. Thomas A. Andrew, who has worked as a chief forensic pathologist for the past 20 years.
This new wave of drug related deaths, is largely due to an increase in the abuse of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil (an elephant tranquilizer 10000 times more potent than morphine), which has now almost completely replaced the use of heroin in the United States.
Overdose deaths have multiplied ten times in some states since 2000. Mortuaries are now having to employ third-party service providers as they do not have sufficient space to store the corpses of those who have died, while they struggle with the backlog of autopsies that must be performed.
Records reveal that drug users in their 20s and 30s are increasingly dying of heart-valve infections. These ages are young for such infections and experts say that these cases are the result of addicts having used dirty needles.
In a sharp career turn, Dr. Thomas has now left his profession and is entering a seminary programme to pursue a divinity degree. He then plans to minister to young people in an effort to warn them of the dangers of drug abuse.
“After seeing thousands of sudden, unexpected or violent deaths,” Dr. Andrew said, “I have found it impossible not to ponder the spiritual dimension of these events for both the deceased and especially those left behind.”
Dr. Andrew says he has developed an appreciation for the essence of life by seeing its fragility. Most of the nearly 5,800 people he has examined on his stainless steel autopsy table, he said, “woke the day they died oblivious to the fact that it would be their last on earth.”