5 things to know about opioids in Travis County

12:00 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017 Local
President Donald Trump announced that he was directing the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency, taking long-anticipated action to address a rapidly escalating epidemic of drug use in the United States. DOUG MILLS / THE NEW YORK TIMES

President Donald Trump on Thursday declared the opioid addiction crisis a public health emergency, although he did not release additional funding to tackle the epidemic. The drug crisis has claimed the lives of more than 60,000 Americans.

Here are five things to know about how the epidemic has affected Travis County and the state:

1. Age and race: According to a 2014 University of Texas study, opioid users in Texas are increasingly white and younger. About 74 percent of people seeking treatment for dependence on opiates other than heroin and synthetics were white. The average age was 35.

2. Overdose rates: In 2014, Travis County had a lower overdose death rate than other large Texas counties. The UT study in 2014 found that Travis County had an overdose death rate of 2.3 per 100,000 people. Nueces County (Corpus Christi), topped the list with an overdose death rate of 10.4, followed by Dallas County (Dallas) at 6.8. Bexar County (San Antonio) and Harris County (Houston) both had overdose death rates of 5.1.

3. Top medications: Hydrocodone was the prescription medication most commonly detected in people autopsied in Travis County in 2009. The Travis County medical examiner also found Xanax and Valium among the top three.

4. Underreported: A 2015 American-Statesman and Houston Chronicle investigation established that prescription drug overdose deaths are widely underreported in Texas and most states.

5. Veterans at risk: Nearly 18 percent of Texas veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq died of drug overdoses, most involving prescription drugs, according to a 2012 American-Statesman investigation that looked into post-combat deaths of Texas veterans from suicide and prescription drug abuse.

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