Fatal drug overdoses more than doubled since 1999, CDC finds

CBS Evening News

In 2010, 29% of fatal overdoses involved so-called "natural" and "semisynthetic" opioids (morphine, oxycodone), while only about 12% involved methadone, a "synthetic" opioid.

The report looks at deaths from drug overdoses from 1995 to 2015 and called them a significant public health burden in the United States.

People between the ages of 54 to 65 saw the biggest percent increase in fatal drug overdoses during the study period, rising almost five-fold from 4.2 deaths per 100,000 to 21.8 deaths in 2015. The majority of the deaths are attributed to opioids - heroin and prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin. The percentage of drug overdose deaths involving heroin (25%) was triple the percentage in 1999; opioids make up 24% of overdose deaths; the other half are a mix of synthetic opioids (18%), methadone (6%), cocaine (13%) and psycho-stimulants like methamphetamine (11%).

And while the overdose death rate for illicitly-obtained opioids like fentanyl - the drug involved in the death of musician Prince - is skyrocketing (it jumped 73% from 2014 to 2015, according to last year's version of this CDC report), the overdose death rate from many other legal prescription opioids is rising far more slowly (4% over the same period, that report found).

But some researchers predict a slowdown in drug overdoses, helped by enhanced prescription drug monitoring by employers and law enforcement agencies.

Opioids killed more than 33,000 Americans in 2015, more than any year on record, the CDC said, which estimates that 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.




The state with the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in 2015 was West Virginia, with a rate of 41 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by New Hampshire, with a rate of 34 deaths per 100,000 people, and Kentucky and OH, both of which had about 30 overdose deaths per 100,000 people.

The highest rates of drug overdose deaths occurred in West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio.

Heroin caused more overdoses than any other drug, according to USA Today.

Drug overdose deaths rose 43 percent in Hispanic persons, 63 percent among blacks, and 240 percent in whites.

"It's that it's not just heroin anymore between the fentanyl [and] of the synthetic variants including carfentanil" an elephant tranquilizer, said Slovis.

Efforts to reduce overdose deaths should also focus on increasing access to evidenced-based treatments for substance use disorders, Mooney said.

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