Fentanyl use drove drug overdose deaths to a record high in 2017

CDC: Drug overdoses hit new high in 2017 | TheHill

The 2017 preliminary death count for all 50 states and the District of Columbia represents a twofold increase over a decade, the CDC says.

Investigators attribute the deaths to the opioids fentanyl and carfentanil - synthetic painkillers far more potent than heroin.

The number of opioid users has been going up "in most places, but not at this exponential rate", said Brandon Marshall, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Brown University School of Public Health. Those efforts have included prevention education, more access to medication-assisted treatment that helps curb cravings for opioids, and a larger federal focus on individual overdose deaths. Preliminary 2018 numbers from MA suggest that the death rate there may be continuing to fall.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates a record number of people died from drug overdoses in 2017.

In addition to the three New England states, overdose deaths fell in Wyoming (minus 33 percent), Utah (minus 12 percent), Oklahoma (minus 9 percent), Montana (minus 8 percent), South Dakota (minus 8 percent), Hawaii (minus 5 percent), Kansas (minus 2 percent), MS (minus 2 percent), New Mexico (minus 2 percent) and North Dakota (minus 1 percent).

The CDC cautions these figures are early estimates based on monthly death records processed by the agency.

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The provisional number of deaths is calculated using confirmed reports of death, then adjusting to account for delays in reporting and autopsy results.

Editor's note: This article was updated August 17. Using its adjusted data, the increase was 9.5 percent. "That's particularly true for places where it wasn't already there".

"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.

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. "We want to continue seeing a decline".

There is only one FDA-approved opioid for use in pets. One worrying sign: Jones said there is some early evidence that drug distributors are finding ways to mix fentanyl with black tar heroin, which could increase death rates in the West.

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