Deadly Drug Overdoses Have Tripled In U.S. Over 15 Years


New data shows that fatal drug overdoses have nearly tripled in the U.S. and that opioids are largely responsible for it.

The findings, released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the three-fold increase occurred between 1999 and 2014. Opioids were involved 28,647 of the 47,055 drug overdose deaths recorded in 2014, and 33,091 of the 52,404 overdose deaths in 2015.

Many of the opioid deaths were concentrated in the Midwest and New England and weren’t necessarily reflect of an epidemic nationwide. States with the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths include Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Synthetic opioid and heroin death rates were the highest in both West Virginia and Ohio.

According to the CDC, heroin and synthetic opioids accounted for huge increases in death rates, most likely driven by “illicitly-manufactured fentanyl and heroin.” The agency blames black market fentanyl for the rise in deaths, saying the number of deaths involving synthetic opioids coincide with “the number of drug products obtained by law enforcement testing positive for fentanyl, but not with fentanyl prescribing rates.”

Heroin cut with an elephant sedative known as carfentanil led to a rash of overdoses last summer throughout Ohio. There were 91 overdoses and eight deaths in the city of Akron alone between July 5-14.