The Southwest Coalition for Substance Abuse Issues

C.D.C. Reports Jump in Drug Overdose Deaths

Announced on November 12, 2017 5:14 pm

C.D.C. Reports a Record Jump in Drug Overdose Deaths Last Year

WASHINGTON — Deaths by drug overdose in the United States surged last year by more than 17 percent over 2015, another sign of the growing addiction crisis caused by opioids, according to a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Preliminary data from the 50 states show that from the fourth quarter of 2015, through the fourth quarter of 2016, the rate of fatal overdoses rose to nearly 20 people per 100,000 from 16.3 per 100,000. The C.D.C. had previously estimated that about 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, with the highest rates reported in New Hampshire, Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio and Rhode Island.

Drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. In recent years, according to Dr. Robert Anderson, chief of the C.D.C. mortality statistics branch, the deaths have been driven by overdoses of synthetic opioids, mostly fentanyl, rather than heroin.

“The main message is the drug rate went up a lot again, and of course we’re worried about it,” Dr. Anderson said.

Dr. Anderson stressed that these are preliminary results. Although the report includes deaths by cancer, heart attack and most other causes through mid-2017, its section on drug deaths covers only 2015 through 2016, because of the complexity of toxicology reports and other information needed to confirm drug overdoses.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University, was not surprised by the numbers.

‘We have roughly two groups of Americans that are getting addicted,” Dr. Kolodny said. “We have an older group that is overdosing on pain medicine, and we have a younger group that is overdosing on black market opioids.”

The number of teenagers becoming addicted to pain killers is going down, Dr. Kolodny said. But those who are already addicted, in their 20s and 30s, are increasingly in danger because of the practice of mixing heroin with fentanyl or fentanyl being sold as heroin. Other government reports show that deaths by fentanyl have increased significantly in three years.

President Trump has declared the opioid crisis a “public health emergency,”but has not released additional funding to address it.

The C.D.C. report also showed that the rate of deaths from cancer were down slightly in the second quarter of 2017, at just under 180 deaths per 100,000 people; down from about 186 per 100,000 in the first quarter. And fewer people are succumbing to heart disease. The report shows that 187 people per 100,000 died in the second quarter, down from 217 per 100,000 in the first part of the year.

By SHEILA KAPLAN    NOV. 3, 2017

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