U.S. drug overdose deaths drop for first time since 1999

Henrietta Strickland
July 20, 2019

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

There were 67,744 drug overdose deaths in 2018, according to the latest numbers, down from the 70,237 deaths reported in 2017.

"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. Those falls were offset somewhat by continuing growth in deaths involving a different opioid, fentanyl, as well as other drugs such cocaine and methamphetamines. While the quantity of deaths due to overdose fell in general, the CDC information demonstrates that these deaths including cocaine and psychostimulants like methamphetamine and MDMA have really ascended from 2017 to 2018.

The opioid epidemic began in the 1990s with hundreds of deaths occurring each year due to overdose of these drugs of abuse. "Lives are being saved, and we're beginning to win the fight against this crisis", Azar said. Essentially unheard of as recently as 2012-when it killed roughly 2,000 people-fentanyl remains the leading cause of drug overdose deaths, with totals increasing sixteen-fold from 2012 to 2018.

Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, said in a statement that the CDC numbers were "good news, but our work is far from over".

The current overdose epidemic has killed more people than any other in USA history, and it had been on a soaring trajectory.

Experts trace the epidemic's origins to 1995 and the marketing of the prescription painkiller OxyContin. "Under President Trump's leadership, and thanks to efforts on the ground by communities across America, the number of patients receiving medication assisted treatment has risen, distribution of overdose-reversing drugs is up, and nationwide opioid prescriptions are down".

Opioids, as in years past, were the drugs most likely to be involved in fatal overdoses, but opioid deaths declined slightly, from about 49,000 in 2017 to a predicted 47,600 in 2018. The CDC added that in counties where opioid pain killer prescriptions were high also reported a higher overdose related deaths. She believes a major factor is Narcan, a nasal spray version of naloxone, that has been widely distributed through the efforts of philanthropists and local, state, and federal officials. "If you don't start millions of opioid-naive people on opioids they don't need, it translates over the short term into few of them developing opioid problems, and in the longer term into fewer overdoses". "We have to keep sending the message to stay away from drugs to save lives".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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