CDC Stats Confirm Drastic Increases in Opioid Overdose Deaths

 In Criminal Justice, Drug Testing

More than 52,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2015, and 63.1 percent of those deaths involved an opioid, reported the CDC in a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The CDC estimates that more than 300,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses since 2000.

National data analyzed by the CDC’s indicates the increase in opioid-related deaths was largely due to use of illicit opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl. From 2014 to 2015, the data show the following:

  • Death rates for synthetic opioids other than methadone (including drugs such as tramadol and fentanyl) increased 72.2 percent.
  • Heroin death rates increased 20.6 percent.
  • Synthetic opioid and heroin death rates increased across all age groups 15 and older, in both sexes, and among all races/ethnicities.
  • Methadone death rates declined 9.1 percent.
  • Natural opioids (including morphine and codeine) and semisynthetic opioids (including commonly prescribed pain medications such as oxycodone and hydrocodone) were involved in more than 12,700 deaths in 2015; death rates increased 2.6 percent from 2014 to 2015 in this category.  However, this increase is slower compared with the increase from 2013 to 2014.

The CDC also analyzed drug overdose data by state. Sixteen states showed increases in synthetic opioid death rates from 2014–2015, and eleven states showed increases in heroin death rates. Three states showed decreases in rates of death involving natural/semi-synthetic opioids.

In its report, the CDC also emphasizes the need for specific actions by public health and law enforcement officials to address the opioid epidemic. Recommendations include greater implementation of the CDC’s 2016 guideline for opioid prescribing, increased access and use of prescription drug monitoring programs, and expansion of both opioid use disorder treatment programs and naloxone distribution, among other strategies.

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