Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old, according to data compiled by the New York Times.

Think about that. Not gun violence, not cancer, not car crashes, but drug overdoses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention won’t be able to certify new overdose numbers until the end of the year. So the Times compiled its own figures from each state.

There were likely at least 59,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2016, a 19 percent increase from 2015, according to the report.

“Some days I feel like, ‘How can I be effective when things are getting worse,’” said Lexi Reed Holtum, executive director of the Steve Rummler Hope Network.

Steve was Lexi’s fiancé.

The couple were high school sweethearts from Edina and college sweethearts at the University of Minnesota.

They split ways but eventually came back together, planning their wedding in August, 2011.

Before that, Steve suffered an injury to his spine and was prescribed opioid pain killers.

“He became addicted to the pills that were prescribed to him to treat the pain," said Lexi. "He sought out multiple doctors to get more pills. He purchased pills over the Internet."

Eventually, the family had an intervention, and Steve went to addiction rehab.

He spent 28 days there and was released, according to Lexi.

“He relapsed. No longer did he have access to his prescription opioids and found someone that could get him heroin. He used heroin one time to our knowledge, and overdosed and died,” said Lexi.

In September of 2011, Lexi and Steve's family created what's now called the Steve Rummler Hope Network.

"Steve’s Law" passed in 2014, which allows first responders to carry the opioid overdose antidote naloxone. It also provides immunity for those who call 911 to report an overdose.

As the opioid epidemic gets worse, Lexi and her team have a list of questions and priorities they feel the public can help with.

  • You do not have to take a prescription for opioids when a doctor prescribes it to you. You have the right to say no.
  • Is your doctor or prescriber asking you if you have addiction in your family?
  • Do your police officers and city first responders carry naloxone—an opioid overdose addiction antidote?
  • Why not? Lexi says SRHM has procured money and training for that.

For more information on opioid overdoses and what you can do to help, visit the Steve Rummler Hope Network website.