Drug overdose deaths hit a record high in the US

Written by Amy Ashton, CNN Drug overdose deaths have reached an all-time high in the United States, according to new figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 60,000 people…

Drug overdose deaths hit a record high in the US

Written by Amy Ashton, CNN

Drug overdose deaths have reached an all-time high in the United States, according to new figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 60,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2017, a new report published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report shows.

Of those, 63,600, or 88.8%, were due to opioids, up 6.9% from 2016, when 66,100 people died from drug overdoses. For the first time, fentanyl was classified as a drug of abuse in the CDC report.

The prevalence of fentanyl and its variants “has reached epidemic proportions in many parts of the country,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for Drug Prevention.

“No drug deserves to be associated with this many life-ending deaths. Increased vigilance, and increased treatment and recovery services are key to preventing future fatalities,” he said.

An area of growing concern is South Carolina, with the fourth-highest death rate from drug overdoses, the CDC said. The state’s death rate from opioids spiked nearly 12% in 2016 and nearly 15% in 2017, the agency said.

Nearly two-thirds of all drug overdose deaths in the US involved opioids in 2017, and 45% of these were due to fentanyl. Meanwhile, heroin and prescription painkillers played a role in one in five deaths.

“The sharp increase in fentanyl and carfentanil deaths reflects the unique way these drugs are packaged and sold, making it harder to evaluate their composition and exact potency,” said Mermin.

Fentanyl has been found in everything from Halloween costumes to children’s cough syrup. Last month, the CDC released an analysis revealing as many as 3.7 million doses of the substance were seized during a routine drug interdiction operation in the US over five years.

Carfentanil is an opioid 10,000 times more potent than morphine, and it is used for tranquilizing elephants. It is often sold as a sedative for elephants and is extremely dangerous for humans. In recent years, Carfentanil has been introduced in products used to sedate large animals, including elephants, which can be fatal.

In 2018, the number of overdose deaths attributed to prescription opioids continued to fall, decreasing 5.4% from the previous year, the CDC said. However, it said the growth in opioid misuse remained high, due in part to a surge in heroin use.

In 2017, the CDC estimated that 142 Americans died every day from drug overdoses. In 2018, it raised its estimate to 154 Americans dying each day.

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