Ten years after President George W. Bush signed a law designating the threat of drug overdose as a public health emergency, the rate of deaths from accidental overdoses of opioids — including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription painkillers — hit a record high in 2017, according to a report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between July 2016 and July 2017, 64,091 Americans died of drug overdoses, of which opioid-related deaths alone made up 61 percent, or 45,485.
Fentanyl, which has been increasingly synthesized as a way to produce even more deadly opioids, was involved in over 5,300 of those deaths, a jump of 22 percent from 2016, the report says. Rates of heroin overdoses rose more than 20 percent in that same time period.
The CDC also found a spike in overdose deaths from synthetic opioids like carfentanil and fentanyl that last year surpassed those involved in other kinds of drugs like cocaine and heroin. Of the 38,055 drug overdose deaths in 2017, 23,122 involved synthetic opioids.
Overdose deaths have reached alarming levels across the United States. The Washington Post reports that 1,800 Americans have died every week since October 2017. New York State reported 1,454 such deaths in March alone. These deaths are having an especially profound impact on communities of color, who are disproportionately represented among the people killed in the epidemic. As one former addict put it: “You take two pills and you could die.”
The Trump administration has yet to craft a comprehensive national opioid strategy to combat the epidemic. Overhauling public health care programs and mental health treatment for those struggling with addiction has been proposed, but only a few pieces of the puzzle have been put in place.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.
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