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CDC: U.S. drug overdose deaths fall for first time since 2018

By Ernie Mundell, HealthDay News
Overall, fatal drug overdoses fell slightly in 2023. That included overdoses linked to opioids, which declined from 84,181 in 2022 to 81,083 in 2023, the CDC said. Photo by Adobe Stock/HealthDay News
Overall, fatal drug overdoses fell slightly in 2023. That included overdoses linked to opioids, which declined from 84,181 in 2022 to 81,083 in 2023, the CDC said. Photo by Adobe Stock/HealthDay News

The relentless rise in deaths from drug overdose in the United States may finally have stalled: New data from 2023 show the first decline in such deaths since 2018.

"Statistics indicate there were an estimated 107,543 drug overdose deaths in the United States during 2023 - a decrease of 3% from the 111,029 deaths estimated in 2022," CDC statisticians wrote.

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They released the new numbers Wednesday as a data presentation from the CDC's National Vital Statistics System.

An epidemic of addiction to prescription opioids like Oxycontin, along with the introduction of lethal additives to street drugs such as fentanyl or xylazine has spurred a steady rise in drug-related deaths.

But the new 2023 numbers, though still incomplete, could give Americans a glimmer of hope.

Overall, fatal drug overdoses fell slightly in 2023. That included overdoses linked to opioids, which declined from 84,181 in 2022 to 81,083 in 2023, the CDC said.

But the good news wasn't spread equally. Some states (Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana and Maine) saw declines in fatal ODs of 15% or more in 2023, while others (Alaska, Washington, and Oregon ) charted big increases.

And while fewer people died in overdoses involving synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl), the rate of fatal overdoses involving cocaine and psychostimulants (such as methamphetamine) actually rose in 2023, the CDC said.

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However, overall, "this is the first annual decrease in drug overdose deaths since 2018," the CDC noted.

Still, the agency stressed that the 2023 data is "incomplete and subject to change as more 2023 data are submitted to the National Vital Statistics System."

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