National emergency: Opioid overdoses

Opioids (NBC News)

(NBC News) – Public health experts were on Capitol Hill Wednesday to address the country’s current opioid overdose epidemic.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under age 50, with 52,000 dying in 2015.

Of those overdose deaths, 33,000 were from opioids, and more than half of those involved prescription drugs.

Experts say the epidemic is escalating because the cheaper, more powerful synthetic opioid, fentanyl, is finding its way to addicts.

“Deaths related to fentanyl have increased from 29 in 2012 to over 1100 in 2016 in Maryland,” noted Maryland Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford.

The House Committee was told one way to tackle the epidemic is to rein in the over-prescribing of opioid pain relievers, and many in the medical profession agree.