Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that deaths from opioid overdoses are falling overall.
On Wednesday, the CDC reported that when comparing data from 2017 and 2018, overdose deaths involving heroin decreased by 4 percent, and overdose deaths involving prescription opioid overdoses fell by 13.5 percent.
“Decreases in overdose deaths involving prescription opioids and heroin reflect the effectiveness of public health efforts to protect Americans and their families,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said. “While we continue work to improve those outcomes, we are also addressing the increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids. We must bring this epidemic to an end.”
Part of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the in-depth analysis found that the opioid crisis in America is shifting. While overall deaths are decreasing, when it comes to synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, deaths from overdoses are increasing.
The report said that synthetic opioids were involved in more than 31,000 of the 67,000 drug overdose deaths of 2018, a 10 percent increase over 2017. The rate of synthetic overdose death rose in several different demographics – men, women, those over 25, non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islanders.
While the death rate from synthetic opioid overdoses increased in 10 of the 11 states analyzed, the highest increases were found in Arizona, California, Washington, and Missouri.
“Opioid overdoses decreased from 2017 to 2018 but still remain high. Efforts must be strengthened to maintain and accelerate decreases in deaths involving prescription opioids and heroin and to prevent continued increases in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids,” said Nana Wilson, an epidemiologist at CDC and lead author of this MMWR study.
The report credited improved opioid prescribing practices, increased treatment options for those using heroin, increased access to naloxone, and efforts to prevent people from starting on opioids in the first place for the overall decrease in overdose deaths.
“To sustain decreases and continue to prevent and respond to drug overdoses, specifically those involving synthetic opioids, it is critical to have a coordinated response,” said Debra Houry, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “Medical personnel, emergency departments, public health and public safety officials, substance abuse treatment providers, community-based organizations, and members of the community all play a role in addressing this complex and fast-moving epidemic.”