Drug overdose deaths drop in U.S. for first time since 1990

U.S. drug overdose deaths last year dropped for the first time in nearly 2 decades, federal health officials reported Wednesday. According to CDC, the total number of fatal drug overdoses in the United States last year declined by about 5%.

U.S. drug overdose deaths last year dropped for the first time in nearly 2 decades, federal health officials reported Wednesday. According to CDC, the total number of fatal drug overdoses in the United States last year declined by about 5%. That figure—more than 68,000—is still higher than the nation's peak annual deaths from car crashes, AIDS, or guns. "It looks like there's a light at the end of the tunnel," said Andrew Kolodny, MD, the co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University. However, he cautioned, "There's nothing to celebrate, because the death toll is still very high." Experts in the addiction and law enforcement fields suggest that the overall decline in overdose deaths could be the result of a combination of changes in prescribing that have tightened the supply of opioids. Additionally, more drug users have access to treatment and to naloxone, and there is increasing awareness of the dangers of fentanyl. In a statement, HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar II said the new data indicated "that America's united efforts to curb opioid use disorder and addiction are working." He noted, however, that "by no means have we declared victory against the epidemic or addiction in general. This crisis developed over 2 decades, and it will not be solved overnight."