New data show significant changes in drug overdose deaths

New CDC data show that overall overdose mortality rates dropped by 4.1% from 2017 to 2018 in the United States. Prescription opioid-involved overdose death rates fell by 13.5%, CDC said, while death rates involving heroin decreased by 4%. Still, death rates involving synthetic opioids (excluding methadone) rose by 10%.

New CDC data show that overall overdose mortality rates dropped by 4.1% from 2017 to 2018 in the United States. Prescription opioid-involved overdose death rates fell by 13.5%, CDC said, while death rates involving heroin decreased by 4%. Still, death rates involving synthetic opioids (excluding methadone) rose by 10%. The in-depth CDC analysis of the latest available drug overdose death data is publishing online in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. According to the data, opioids were involved in more than 67,000 drug overdose deaths in 2018. Synthetic opioids were implicated in 31,335 overdose deaths, likely spurred by illicitly manufactured fentanyl. From 2017 to 2018, synthetic opioid overdose-involved mortality rates rose among both males and females, individuals aged 25 years and older, non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islanders. "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, MD, MPH, 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." Nana Wilson, PhD, epidemiologist at CDC and lead author of this MMWR study, also noted, "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."