US Drug Overdose Deaths Down For First Time In 30 Years

The number of US deaths from drug overdoses fell last year by more than 5%. While the number is perhaps modest, it's the first time the figure has fallen in nearly 30 years, according to Axiosciting data from the Centers for Disease Control

As Axios notes, "This progress is both fragile and modest," while pointing out that "overdose deaths rose by roughly 316% between 1999 and 2017." 

There's still a long way to go, and more than 68,000 Americans still died of overdoses last year.

  • "Lives are being saved, and we're beginning to win the fight against this crisis," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement yesterday.

  • "This crisis developed over two decades and it will not be solved overnight," Azar said.

  • Overdoses from prescription opioids are falling, but deaths from fentanyl, cocaine and meth all continued to increase last year. -Axios

By state, OD deaths are up in Missouri (16.3%), Vermont (11.6%), South Carolina (9.3%) and between 6% - 8% in the southwestern United States. 

According to the report, the decline in overdose deaths looks to be driven primarily by a reduction in the abuse of prescription painkillers. That said, doses involving fentanyl, meth and cocaine continue to rise. 

  • Naloxone, the drug that reverses the immediate effects of an overdose, has also become much more widely available as the crisis has worsened, and that is all but certainly helping to save lives.

  • But it's not clear whether efforts to get people into longer-term treatment programs are making a dent yet, given the rising demand for illegal drugs. -Axios

 The CDC's detailed report can be seen here