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US drug overdose deaths rose 7% in 2017 and doubled over a decade, CDC reports

More than 72,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2017, up nearly 7% from 2016, according to preliminary ...

Posted: Aug 17, 2018 1:59 AM
Updated: Aug 17, 2018 1:59 AM

More than 72,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2017, up nearly 7% from 2016, according to preliminary data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 2017 preliminary death count for all 50 states and the District of Columbia represents a twofold increase over a decade, the CDC says.

The authors of the report say the 2017 numbers may be an underestimate because states' investigations into some overdose deaths may not be complete.

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Opioids, which include prescription painkillers along with heroin and other illegal synthetic opioid drugs, contributed 49,068 to the total number of overdose deaths, the report indicates. From 2002 to 2017, the CDC estimates a 4.1-fold increase in the total number of deaths due to all types of opioid drugs.

"The most striking patterns at the national level are the recent increases in the numbers of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids (excluding methadone)," Lauren Rossen, co-author of the report and a statistician at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, wrote in an email.

Nearly 30,000 overdose deaths were related to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids in 2017, which is 22 times the number of deaths due to these drugs in 2002, the CDC finds.

When describing deaths involving specific drugs, "a single death might be included in more than one category," Rossen and lead author Farida B. Ahmad, of the Division of Vital Statistics at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, noted in the report. "For example, a death that involved both heroin and fentanyl would be included in both the number of drug overdose deaths involving heroin and the number of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone."

Breaking out the numbers in greater detail, they found that overdose deaths involving prescription pain relievers -- exclusive of synthetic opioids -- nearly doubled from 2002 to 2011, yet have remained relatively stable since.

The lowest number of overdose deaths due to cocaine, 4,312 in 2010, rose to a preliminary count of 14,556 in 2017, a 3.5-fold increase, the report also said.

Differences across the states include which specific drugs are involved in the deaths, Rossen noted.

"Prior studies have found that the numbers of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids have increased more rapidly in states across the Midwest and Eastern US," she said. The new report shows this to be true, but the data are preliminary and so incomplete for some states.

"States in the Western part of the U.S. have not seen the same kind of increases in drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids," she added, noting that it is more common to see psychostimulants such as methamphetamine involved in drug overdose deaths in states like Oregon, Nevada and Washington.

Alex Ebied, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, said that because opioid overdose deaths accounted for the majority -- nearly 68% -- of the preliminary total for 2017, the new report is "showcasing the opioid epidemic in the United States."

"It is important to note that this data encompasses both intentional and accidental overdoses," added Ebied, who was not involved in the CDC report.

Examples of accidental overdoses include children finding medications within arm's reach and chronic pain sufferers who have developed a tolerance for their medications and overdose when they try to control the pain from a severe episode, he said.

"While the opioid epidemic is a major concern, it is worth mentioning there are non-opioids overdoses representing 32.1%" of the total overdose deaths for 2017, Ebied said. "Any drug can be abused, but accessibility, cost and addictive properties are major factors."

He said that over-the-counter medications including acetaminophen, a non-opioid pain reliever, or loperamide, an anti-diarrheal, are also abused while ingestion of Tide detergent pods, K2 and "bath salts" are an emerging concern.

"The sharp increase in fentanyl and fentanyl analogs indicates there is abuse of access to this drug class," Ebied said, noting that fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine. "Although the Drug Enforcement Administration has a tight control of these controlled substances, accessibility continues to occur.

"A majority of abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet," Ebied said. He noted that there are increased efforts toward substance abuse awareness, including the Generation Rx Initiative, an educational program to increase public awareness of prescription medication abuse, and the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, an initiative to dispose of unused drugs in a responsible way.

Other positive steps include increasing supply of naloxone, the opioid antidote, to first responders, while some states, including his own, are taking steps to limit opioid prescribing.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 752108

Reported Deaths: 13816
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1033831790
Lake558431013
Allen41736693
St. Joseph37007565
Hamilton36617417
Elkhart29425461
Tippecanoe22938228
Vanderburgh22565400
Porter19369327
Johnson18486389
Hendricks17696317
Clark13233195
Madison13176344
Vigo12631253
LaPorte12429221
Monroe12226176
Delaware10970198
Howard10349224
Kosciusko9643121
Hancock8578147
Bartholomew8174157
Warrick7864156
Floyd7815180
Grant7248179
Wayne7164201
Boone6979103
Morgan6768141
Dubois6224118
Marshall6214116
Cass6024110
Henry5903110
Dearborn589878
Noble581688
Jackson509476
Shelby502396
Lawrence4753122
Gibson445595
Clinton443555
Harrison441775
DeKalb440385
Montgomery439890
Whitley406744
Huntington403381
Steuben400859
Miami395769
Jasper389155
Knox377691
Putnam373461
Wabash362383
Ripley347370
Adams345555
Jefferson336186
White332753
Daviess3035100
Wells295481
Decatur289892
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey274335
LaGrange273272
Scott270356
Clay267148
Washington246336
Randolph245183
Jennings235349
Spencer234531
Starke228159
Fountain222048
Sullivan214843
Owen212358
Fulton204043
Jay201032
Carroll193820
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion175344
Franklin170435
Tipton166646
Parke149616
Pike138334
Blackford136232
Pulaski120847
Newton114936
Brown104443
Benton102614
Crawford102516
Martin91815
Warren84115
Switzerland8158
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0424

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1109697

Reported Deaths: 20213
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1289521469
Cuyahoga1158802216
Hamilton814201251
Montgomery525861049
Summit484551006
Lucas43384824
Butler39098606
Stark33355930
Lorain25689506
Warren24612305
Mahoning22388602
Lake21219389
Clermont20138253
Delaware18892136
Licking16671225
Fairfield16589204
Trumbull16560483
Medina15618273
Greene15292248
Clark14244306
Wood13296200
Portage13254216
Allen11919239
Richland11611211
Miami10857225
Wayne9153225
Columbiana9039230
Muskingum8909135
Pickaway8664122
Tuscarawas8654251
Marion8649139
Erie8058165
Ashtabula7171179
Hancock6999133
Ross6948163
Geauga6850151
Scioto6540106
Belmont6159174
Union585049
Lawrence5741102
Jefferson5683159
Huron5554122
Sandusky5444126
Darke5420129
Seneca5350128
Washington5321109
Athens524460
Auglaize502487
Mercer487785
Shelby477095
Knox4573112
Madison444566
Ashland435997
Putnam4336104
Defiance432399
Fulton432274
Crawford4046110
Brown402761
Logan387678
Preble3859105
Clinton379266
Ottawa373581
Highland360266
Williams348578
Champaign344959
Guernsey325254
Jackson318454
Perry297350
Morrow291940
Fayette285750
Hardin275765
Henry273867
Holmes2703101
Coshocton269360
Van Wert247264
Adams243156
Pike242835
Gallia240850
Wyandot234756
Hocking220663
Carroll197548
Paulding176642
Meigs148540
Monroe136345
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan110124
Vinton85717
Unassigned03
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