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The Spiraling Opioid Epidemic in America

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US Opioid Epidemic Spiral in America

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The Spiraling Opioid Epidemic in America

Over the last 20 years, the ongoing U.S. opioid crisis has claimed tens of thousands of lives. In fact, opioid overdose deaths accounted for nearly 70% of all drug overdose deaths in 2018.

Although the damage of the opioid epidemic is well documented, what people might not know is that it has escalated in three distinct waves.

We pull the latest statistics from the UN World Drug Report 2020 to uncover the scope of the opioid crisis in the U.S., and how national drug-related death rates compare to other countries.

Three Waves of the Opioid Crisis

According to the CDC, the opioid epidemic can be traced back to the 1990s, when opioids started being over-prescribed for pain relief purposes.

  • 1990s – Wave 1
    Over-prescription of opioids for pain relief, including natural opioids, semi-synthetic opioids, and methadone. Addiction risks were widely downplayed.
  • 2010 – Wave 2
    Heroin-related overdose deaths on the rise.
  • 2013 – Wave 3
    Synthetic opioid-related deaths on the rise, particularly fentanyl and tramadol.

Here’s how that breaks down in terms of opioid-related overdose deaths over the years. Note that by the year 2018, 67% of overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

YearAny opioidsHeroinPharmaceutical opioidsSynthetic opioids
19998,0501,9603,533730
20008,4071,8423,903782
20019,4961,7794,935957
200211,9202,0896,7741,295
200312,9402,0807,8391,400
200413,7561,8789,0761,664
200514,9182,00910,2341,742
200617,5452,08812,4232,707
200718,5162,39913,6762,213
200819,5823,04114,0432,306
200920,4223,27814,4312,946
201021,0893,03615,5203,007
201122,7844,39716,1112,666
201223,1665,92515,0722,628
201325,0528,25713,9373,105
201428,64710,57415,5595,544
201533,09112,98916,0289,580
201642,24915,46917,86019,413
201747,60015,48217,68928,466
201846,80214,99615,57531,335

Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and tramadol shot up by over 4,000% between 1999-2018. This can be attributed to two things: their relative potency, and the minute quantities of each that qualify as a lethal dose.

As per the medical and legal standard, opioids are often compared to morphine. To that end, heroin is 2-5x stronger—while fentanyl is 50-100x more potent. Put another way, roughly a dime-size or 10-12mg of heroin is considered a lethal dose, compared to only 1-2mg of fentanyl.

What’s worse, fentanyl is typically mixed with other types of drugs such as heroin or cocaine to increase their effects, which is how it ends up unintentionally ingested. Between 2008-2017, drug-use disorders as a whole claimed the most healthy lives due to poor health or early deaths—measured in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)—followed in close second by opioid use disorders.

The Death Toll of U.S. Drug Overdoses

It’s undeniable that the opioid epidemic in America has caused significant harm to communities. But how does the U.S. drug crisis compare to the same issue in other countries?

The UN Drug Report further puts these numbers into perspective by comparing drug-related deaths per million population. Note that the source also compiled the total deaths across years for selected countries.

Country (Latest Year)Latest Years of EstimateTotal DeathsRate per 1M (Aged 15-64)
🇺🇸 U.S.201867,367314.5
🇦🇺 Australia2016-20173,240202.6
🇸🇻 El Salvador2018765184.5
🇨🇦 Canada 20184,460179.8
🇺🇾 Uruguay2016264119.4
🇮🇸 Iceland2012-201623105.2
🇸🇪 Sweden201757592.9
🇳🇿 New Zealand201626988.6
🇫🇮 Finland201728983.9
🇬🇧 UK20173,54783

With 314.5 deaths per million, the U.S. by far had the highest proportion of drug-related deaths per million people in 2018. It also had the highest overall number at 67.4K deaths.

Elephant in the Room?

Another drug rearing its head on the streets is carfentanil. Formerly developed as ‘elephant tranquilizer’, this synthetic opioid is similar in appearance to other illicit drugs such as heroin, making it indistinguishable when mixed in. However, there’s one big problem—carfentanil is 100x more potent than fentanyl itself.

In response to the continued crisis, an additional $35.7 billion was requested for counter-drug funding efforts in the FY2021 Budget. This amount is expected to go towards prevention and treatment efforts ($18.6 billion) and law enforcement efforts ($17.1 billion) both domestically and internationally.

But will these efforts properly combat the crisis, or are we already in the midst of a fourth wave of the opioid epidemic?

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Maps

A Map of the Online World in Incredible Detail

This unique map provides an in-depth snapshot of the state of the world wide web, highlighting the most popular websites on the internet.

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A Map of the Online World in Incredible Detail

The internet is intangible, and because you can’t see it, it can be hard to comprehend its sheer vastness. As well, it’s difficult to gauge the relative size of different web properties. However, this map of the internet by Halcyon Maps offers a unique solution to these problems.

Inspired by the look and design of historical maps, this graphic provides a snapshot of the current state of the World Wide Web, as of April 2021. Let’s take a closer look!

But First, Methodology

Before diving into an analysis, it’s worth touching on the methodology behind this graphic’s design.

This map highlights thousands of the world’s most popular websites by visualizing them as “countries.” These “countries” are organized into clusters that are grouped by their content type (whether it’s a news website, search engine, e-commerce platform, etc).

Visual Capitalist on the mapEditor’s fun fact: Can you spot Visual Capitalist? We’re right in between TechCrunch and The Guardian above.

The colored borders represent a website’s logo or user interface. In terms of scale, each website’s territory size is based on its average Alexa web traffic ranking. The data is a yearly average, measured from January 2020 to January 2021.

Along the borders of the map, you can find additional information, from ranked lists of social media consumption to a mini-map of average download speeds across the globe.

According to the designer Martin Vargic, this map took about a year to complete.

Top 50 Most Popular Websites

Google and YouTube take up a lot of space, which is unsurprising—they’re the two highest-ranked websites on the list:

RankWebsiteCountry
1Google.com🇺🇲 U.S.
2Youtube.com🇺🇲 U.S.
3Tmall.com🇨🇳 China
4Baidu.com🇨🇳 China
5QQ.com🇨🇳 China
6Sohu.com🇨🇳 China
7Facebook.com🇺🇲 U.S.
8Taobao.com🇨🇳 China
9Amazon.com🇺🇲 U.S.
10360.cn🇨🇳 China
11Yahoo.com🇺🇲 U.S.
12Jd.com🇨🇳 China
13Zoom.us🇺🇲 U.S.
14Wikipedia.com🇺🇲 U.S.
15Weibo.com🇨🇳 China
16Sina.com.cn🇨🇳 China
17Live.com🇺🇲 U.S.
18Xinhuanet.com🇨🇳 China
19Microsoft.com🇺🇲 U.S.
20Reddit.com🇺🇲 U.S.
21Office.com🇺🇲 U.S.
22Netflix.com🇺🇲 U.S.
23Microsoftonline.com🇺🇲 U.S.
24Panda.tv🇨🇳 China
25Zhanqi.tv🇨🇳 China
26Instagram.com🇺🇲 U.S.
27Force.com🇺🇲 U.S.
28Google.com.hk🇭🇰 Hong Kong
29VK.com🇷🇺 Russia
30Alipay.com🇨🇳 China
31Csdn.net🇨🇳 China
32Myshopify.com🇨🇦 Canada
33Okezone.com🇮🇩 Indonesia
34Bing.com🇺🇲 U.S.
35Yahoo.co.jp🇯🇵 Japan
36Naver.com🇰🇷 South Korea
37Adobe.com🇺🇲 U.S.
38Salesforce.com🇺🇲 U.S.
39Ebay.com🇺🇲 U.S.
40Twitch.tv🇺🇲 U.S.
41Bongacams.com🇳🇱 Netherlands
42Twitter.com🇺🇲 U.S.
43Apple.com🇺🇲 U.S.
44Amazon.in🇮🇳 India
45Amazon.co.jp🇯🇵 Japan
46Aliexpress.com🇨🇳 China
47Aparat.com🇮🇷 Iran
48Linkedin.com🇺🇲 U.S.
49Huanqiu.com🇨🇳 China
50YY.com🇨🇳 China

Google has held the title as the internet’s most popular website since 2010. While Google’s popularity is well understood, the company’s dominance might be even more widespread than you’d think—across all Google-owned platforms (including YouTube) the company accounts for 90% of all internet searches.

The third highest ranked website is Tmall. For those who don’t know, Tmall is a Chinese e-commerce platform, owned by Alibaba Group. It focuses on Business-to-Consumer (B2C) transactions, and has established itself as the most popular e-commerce website in China—in Q1 2021, Tmall accounted for more than 50% of China’s B2C online transactions.

A High Level Look

When it comes to the top 50 websites overall, a majority are either social networking platforms, search engines, or online marketplaces—while this may not come as a surprise, it’s still powerful to see visualized. For instance, even a huge, well-known website like the New York Times is just a tiny country on this map.

And of course, a map of the internet isn’t complete without mention of the dark web.

While it’s challenging to determine its true size, research indicates that the dark web accounts for a large portion of the internet’s true size. And apparently, it’s growing steadily, with the help of anonymous cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

For the most part, it’s believed that the dark web is used for unsavory reasons—however, it’s not all bad. Because of its anonymous nature, it can be used as a safe space for whistleblowing or activism.

Overall, this map, and the internet as a whole, has many places for us to explore. When you dive in, what “countries” catch your eye?

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Misc

Timeline: The World’s Biggest Passenger Ships from 1831-Present

This giant infographic explores the biggest passenger ships on the open seas, over a period of almost 200 years.

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Biggest Passenger Ships Since 1833

Breaking Records: The Biggest Passenger Ships since 1831

The Titanic lives large in our minds, but it’s probably not surprising that the world record for biggest passenger ship has been broken many times since its era. In fact, today’s largest passenger ship can now hold over 6,000 people—more than double the Titanic’s capacity.

This graphic by HMY Yachts looks at which vessels held the title of the world’s largest passenger ship over time, and how these vessels have evolved since the early 19th century.

Different Types of Passenger Ships

Before diving into the ranking, it’s worth explaining what constitutes a passenger ship.

Passenger ships are vessels whose main purpose is to transport people rather than goods. In modern times, there are three types of passenger ships:

  • Cruise ships: Used for vacationing, with a priority on amenities and luxury
  • Ferries: Typically used for shorter day trips, or overnight transport
  • Ocean liners: The traditional mode of maritime transport, with a priority on speed

Traditional ocean liners are becoming obsolete, largely because of advancements in other modes of transportation such as rail, automobile, and air travel. In other words, the main priority for passenger ships has changed over the years, shifting from transportation to recreation.

Now, luxury is the central focus, meaning extravagance is part of the whole cruise ship experience. For example, the Navigator of the Seas (which was the largest passenger ship from 2002-2003) has $8.5 million worth of artwork displayed throughout the ship.

A Full Breakdown: Biggest Passenger Ships By Tonnage

Now that we’ve touched on the definition of a passenger ship and how they’ve evolved over the years, let’s take a look at some of the largest passenger ships in history.

The first vessel on the list is the SS Royal William. Built in Eastern Canada in the early 1800s, this ship was originally built for domestic travel within Canada.

In addition to being the largest passenger ship of its time, it’s often credited as being the first ship to travel across the Atlantic Ocean almost fully by steam engine. However, some sources claim the Dutch-owned vessel Curaçao completed a steam-powered journey in 1827—six years before the SS Royal William.

In 1837, The SS Royal William was dethroned by the SS Great Western, only to change hands dozens of times before 1912, when the Titanic entered the scene.

ShipTitle heldTonnageCapacity
SS Royal William1831 – 18371,370 GRT155 passengers
SS Great Western1837 – 18391,340 GRT128 passengers, 20 servants, 60 crew
SS British Queen1839 – 18401,850 GRT207 passengers
SS President1840 – 18412,366 GRT110 passengers, 44 servants
SS British Queen1841 – 18431,850 GRT207 passengers
SS Great Britain1843 – 18533,270 GRT360 passengers, 120 crew
SS Atrato1853 – 18583,466 GRT762+ passengers
SS Great Eastern1858 – 188818,915 GRT4,000 passengers, 418 crew
SS City of New York1888 – 189310,499 GRT1,740 passengers, 362 crew
RMS Campania and RMS Lucania1893 – 189712,950 GRT2,000 passengers, 424 crew
SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse1897 – 189914,349 GRT1,506 passengers, 488 crew
RMS Oceanic1899 – 190117,272 GRT1,710 passengers, 349 crew
RMS Celtic1901 – 190320,904 GRT2,857 passengers
RMS Cedric1903 – 190421,035 GRT1,223 passengers, 486 crew
RMS Baltic1904 – 190623,876 GRT2,875 passengers
SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria1906 – 190724,581 GRT2,466 passengers
RMS Lusitania190731,550 GRT2,198 passengers, 850 crew
RMS Mauretania1907 – 191131,938 GRT2,165 passengers, 802 crew
RMS Olympic1911 – 191245,324 GRT2,435 passengers, 950 crew
RMS Titanic191246,328 GRT2,435 passengers, 892 crew
SS Imperator1913 – 191452,117 GRT4,234 passengers, 1,180 crew
SS Vaterland1914 – 192254,282 GRT1,165 passengers
RMS Majestic1922 – 193556,551 GRT2,145 passengers
SS Normandie1935 – 193679,280 GRT1,972 passengers, 1,345 crew
RMS Queen Mary193680,774 GRT2,139 passengers, 1,101 crew
SS Normandie1936 – 194683,404 GRT1,972 passengers, 1,345 crew
RMS Queen Elizabeth1946 – 197283,673 GRT2,283 passengers, 1000+ crew
SS France and SS Norway (1962-1980)1972 – 198766,343 GRT2,044 passengers, 1,253 crew
MS Sovereign of the Seas1987 – 199073,529 GT2,850 passengers
SS Norway1990 – 199576,049 GT2,565 passengers, 875 crew
Sun Princess1995 – 199677,499 GT2,010 passengers, 924 crew
Carnival Destiny1996 – 1998101,353 GT2,642 passengers, 1,150 crew
Grand Princess1998 – 1999109,000 GT2,590 passengers, 1,110 crew
Voyager of the Seas1999 – 2000137,276 GT3,138 passengers, 1,181 crew
Explorer of the Seas2000 – 2002137,308 GT3,114 passengers, 1,180 crew
Navigator of the Seas2002 – 2003139,999 GT4,000 passengers, 1,200 crew
RMS Queen Mary 22003 – 2006148,528 GT2,640 passengers, 1,256 crew
MS Freedom of the Seas2006 – 2007154,407 GT4,515 passengers, 1,300 crew
Liberty of the Seas2007 – 2009155,889 GT4,960 passengers, 1,300 crew
Oasis of the Seas2009 – 2016225,282 GT6,780 passengers, 2,165 crew
Harmony of the Seas2016 – 2018226,963 GT6,780 passengers, 2,300 crew
Symphony of the Seas2018 – present228,081 GT6,680 passengers, 2,200 crew

The Titanic was one of three ships in the Olympic-class line. Of the three, two of them sank—the Titanic in 1912, and the HMHS Britannic in 1916, during World War I. Some historians believe these ships sank as a result of their faulty bulkhead design.

Fast forward to today, and the Symphony of the Seas is now the world’s largest passenger ship. While it boasts 228,081 in gross tonnage, it uses 25% less fuel than its sister ships (which are slightly smaller).

COVID-19’s Impact on Cruise Ships

2020 was a tough year for the cruise ship industry, as travel restrictions and onboard outbreaks halted the $150 billion industry. As a result, some operations were forced to downsize—for instance, the notable cruise operation Carnival removed 13 ships from its fleet in July 2020.

That being said, restrictions are slowly beginning to loosen, and industry experts remain hopeful that things will look different in 2021 as more people begin to come back on board.

“[There] is quite a bit of pent-up demand and we’re already seeing strong interest in 2021 and 2022 across the board, with Europe, the Mediterranean, and Alaska all seeing significant interest next year.”
-Josh Leibowitz, president of luxury cruise line Seabourn

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