Drug overdose deaths throughout the United States are on the rise, and more than two-thirds are caused by opioid overdoses, according to the findings of a new report.
From 2014 to 2015, drug overdoses increased 11%, and then increased another 21.5% from 2015 to 2016, according to data published this week in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Researchers indicated from 1999 to 2015 nearly 570,000 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S. with recent federal report indicating opioid drug overdose deaths now outnumber breast cancer deaths.
From 2014 to 2015, drug overdoses resulted in 52,000 deaths. A total of 33,000 of those deaths involved opioid painkillers.
The largest increase seen in that time frame involved deaths from synthetic opioids other than methadone, such as fentanyl. Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids increased by 72%.
In 2017, another CDC report indicated from July to December 2016 half of the overdose deaths involved fentanyl. The new report indicated most of the deaths involved in drug overdoses over the last few years were also laced with fentanyl.
From 2015 to 2016 drug overdoses increased 21.5%, resulting in 64,000 overdose deaths. More than 42,000 of those, or 66%, involved opioid painkillers.
Drug overdoses increased across all drug categories. Drug overdoses related to cocaine increased 52%, overdoses linked to synthetic opioids, like fentanyl increased 100%.
Similarly, overdoses linked to psychostimulants increased 33%, overdoses from heroin 19.5%, and overdoses from prescription opioids 10.6%.
Researchers compiled data from 31 states and Washington D.C. Of those, 21 states had increases in opioid overdose deaths, and in 10 of those states the rate more than doubled. New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Massachusetts were all disproportionately affected by synthetic opioids.
The study also noted every demographic experienced increases in drug overdose death rates. However, men between the ages of 25 to 44 had the most dramatic increase.
The CDC reports indicated the opioid crisis hit an all time high, with overdose deaths increasing nearly 140%. The FDA recently announced plans to address the opioid crisis, including a focus on pain management to reduce new addictions, non-drug treatments, new opioid formulations, and prescriber programs.
CDC researchers are calling for a multifaceted approach to combat the opioid epidemic. The approach should include comprehensive surveillance, track emerging overdose threats, respond to the epidemic with naloxone availability, and focus on safe prescribing practices.