Opioid death rates

Last Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued its latest report on opioid overdose deaths:

Drug overdoses killed 63,632 Americans in 2016. Nearly two-thirds of these deaths (66%) involved a prescription or illicit opioid. Overdose deaths increased in all categories of drugs examined for men and women, people ages 15 and older, all races and ethnicities, and across all levels of urbanization. 

CDC’s new analysis confirms that recent increases in drug overdose deaths are driven by continued sharp increases in deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, such as illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF). 

“No area of the United States is exempt from this epidemic—we all know a friend, family member, or loved one devastated by opioids,” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, M.D. “All branches of the federal government are working together to reduce the availability of illicit drugs, prevent deaths from overdoses, treat people with substance-use disorders, and prevent people from starting using drugs in the first place.” 

CDC’s analysis, based on 2015-2016 data from 31 states and Washington, D.C., showed:
Across demographic categories, the largest increase in opioid overdose death rates was in males between the ages of 25-44. 

  • Overall drug overdose death rates increased by 21.5 percent.
  • The overdose death rate from synthetic opioids (other than methadone) more than doubled, likely driven by illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF).
  • The prescription opioid-related overdose death rate increased by 10.6 percent.
  • The heroin-related overdose death rate increased by 19.5 percent.
  • The cocaine-related overdose death rate increased by 52.4 percent.
  • The psychostimulant-related overdose death rate increased by 33.3 percent.
  • IMF is mixed into counterfeit opioid and benzodiazepine pills, heroin, and cocaine, likely contributing to increases in overdoses involving these other substances.

The report further notes that “Eight states had significant increases in death rates involving prescription opioids. West Virginia, Maryland, Maine, and Utah had the highest rates.”

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