|August 20, 2018
CDC: Drug overdoses killed 72,000 in 2017
[from AMA Morning Rounds]
In a front-page story, the New York Times (8/15, A1, Sanger-Katz) reports that drug overdoses killed more than 72,000 Americans in 2017, a rise of about 10 percent from the year prior, according to new preliminary estimates from the Centers for Disease Control. The rising death toll “reflects two major factors: A growing number of Americans are using opioids, and those drugs are becoming more deadly.” Experts who are monitoring the epidemic point to the increase in synthetic opioids like fentanyl “most likely explains the bulk of the increased number of overdoses last year.” According to the CDC estimates, “overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids rose sharply, while deaths from heroin, prescription opioid pills and methadone fell.”
The Washington Post (8/15, Ingraham) reports the CDC “cautions that these figures are early estimates based on monthly death records processed by the agency.” The deaths are geographically distributed similarly to how they have been in past years, with Appalachia and New England showing the highest mortality rates. The highest rates were “seen in West Virginia, with 58.7 overdose deaths for every 100,000 residents. The District of Columbia (50.4), Pennsylvania (44.1), Ohio (44.0) and Maryland (37.9) rounded out the top five.” The CDC data also show, despite the nationwide increase, “overdose rates fell in a number of states, including North Dakota and Wyoming, compared with the prior year. Particularly significant were the decreases in Vermont and Massachusetts, two states with relatively high rates of overdose mortality.”
Fortune (8/15, Mukherjee) reports the nearly 72,000 overdose deaths “outpaced fatalities from suicide, or from influenza and pneumonia, which claimed about 44,000 and 57,000 lives, respectively, in 2016.”
Meanwhile, according to a press release, “The American Medical Association (AMA) called on policymakers...to support proven approaches to treat opioid use disorder.” Patrice A. Harris, M.D., chair of the AMA Opioid Task Force, said, “We know what works.” Dr. Harris added, “We can point to states where making access to medication assisted treatment (MAT) has been a priority, and the mortality rates are doing down. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provisional numbers yet again underscore that this epidemic will not be reversed until we deal with access issues and stigma associated with opioid misuse.”For more information about how to help reverse the nation’s opioid epidemic, visit the AMA’s microsite, End the Opioid Epidemic.
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