Drug Overdose Deaths Finally Dropped in 2018 — CDC

Overdose death total in U.S. likely decreased for first time in almost 3 decades

Overdose death total in U.S. likely decreased for first time in almost 3 decades

After some promising early indicators, preliminary federal data suggest the number of Americans who died from drug overdoses finally fell in 2018, after years of significant increases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday posted data showing almost 68,000 drug overdose deaths were reported a year ago.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said this was down to a decline in deaths linked to opioids.

For starters, almost 68,000 people died from overdoses, which is lower than 2017's total which topped 70,000, but still a high number.

"Lives are being saved, and we're beginning to win the fight against this crisis", Mr Azar's statement said, praising efforts by the Trump administration and community efforts across the United States for the shift.

Any leveling off - or decline - in overdose deaths is good news, but the overdose death rate is still about seven times higher than it was a generation ago.

"We're still in a pretty sad situation that we need to address", said Rebecca Haffajee, a behavioral health researcher at the University of MI who studies policies aimed at curbing opioid addiction.

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Further, overdoses caused by heroin and prescription painkillers decreased, possibly resulting from fewer opioid prescriptions from doctors, but deaths related to fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamines all continued to rise. Between 1999 and 2017, the number of annual drug overdose deaths in the USA ballooned from almost 17,000 to more than 72,000, according to federal data.

It can take months for authorities to complete toxicology tests and other elements of a death investigation involving drugs.

Though the data aren't final, the estimates are a refreshing change from years of sizable increases in fatal drug overdoses. That translates to an approximately 5% reduction in overdose deaths nationwide-a small but significant step toward curbing the deadly effects of the nation's substance abuse crisis.

Experts partially blame the overprescription of powerful and addictive painkillers for the epidemic. It was meant be safer and more effective than other prescription opioids, but some patients became hooked.

Gradually, many turned to cheaper street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.

Strategies to reduce drug overdose deaths have included tougher policing, treatment program expansions, policies to limit opioid painkiller prescriptions and wider distribution of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone. Fentanyl is said to be up to 100 times stronger than morphine and has flooded the illegal USA drugs market.

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