Published: Sun, August 19, 2018
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CDC: Drug overdoses hit new high in 2017

CDC: Drug overdoses hit new high in 2017

More than 72,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2017, up almost 7% from 2016, according to preliminary data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In parts of New England, where a more risky drug supply arrived early, the number of overdoses has begun to fall. Both Vermont and MA had fewer deaths in that time period.

Since the rise of fentanyl in the opioid epidemic, a wide spectrum of local, state and federal officials have been working to implement a series of initiatives to fight the surge of the powerful drug.

"States in the Western part of the USA 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.

But nationwide, the crisis worsened in the first year of the Donald Trump presidency, a continuation of a long-term trend. Past year the Trump administration declared the epidemic a "public health emergency" but allocated no new funding for states to address the issue.

"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.

Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues killed 1,252 people in North Carolina in 2017, much higher than 543 deaths in 2016, according to data from the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME).

"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.

"There's a lot of money going into the system, and it takes some time for this to translate into new infrastructure", said Chris Jones, the director of the national mental health and substance use policy laboratory.

In New Haven, police arrested two suspects they believe were selling and handing out the drugs. Using deaths that are confirmed, the agency measured a 10.2 percent increase in overdose deaths between 2016 and 2017. Continuing funding may help more states develop the kind of public health programs that appear to have helped in New England.

Congress is debating a variety of bills to fight the epidemic.

A safer injection facility allows people to use opioids like heroin in a supervised location where a caregiver can administer naloxone if the person overdoses. Nebraska had the fewest with just 8.2 deaths per 100,000, a rate less than one-seventh the rate in West Virginia.

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