Overdose Deaths Spike from Synthetic Opioids

Drug overdoses killed 63,632 Americans in 2016 and nearly 66% of those deaths involved a prescription or illicit opioid.

A comprehensive evaluation of the 2016 US drug overdose data indicates that the opioid epidemic has spread geographically and increased across demographic groups. The analysis, from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was published in today’s issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In 2016, drug overdoses killed 63,632 Americans and nearly 66% of those deaths involved a prescription or illicit opioid. The CDC’s analysis indicates that recent increases in drug overdose deaths have been driven by growth in deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, including illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF).

The study, based on 2015-2016 data from 31 states and Washington, D.C., found that the largest increase in opioid overdose deaths was in males between the ages of 25-44. Overall drug overdose death rates increased by 21.5%, but those involving synthetic opioids (other than methadone) more than doubled. Between 2015-2016, rates of death from overdoses involving synthetic opioids increased in 21 states and in 10 states those rates doubled. New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Massachusetts had the highest death rates from synthetic opioids.

“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, MD. “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.”

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