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NEW ORLEANS — The number of drug overdose deaths in the United States rose slightly last year after two big spikes during the pandemic.
concerned person Centers for Disease Control and Prevention That number plateaued for most of last year, he said. Experts aren’t sure if this means the worst drug overdose epidemic in U.S. history is finally peaking, or if it’s going to be like the previous plateau, when new deaths continued to surge. isn’t it.
“The fact that the situation appears to have plateaued, at least at the national level, is reassuring,” said Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University whose research has focused on drug use. “However, this figure is still unusually high. We should not in any way suggest that the crisis is over.”
An estimated 109,680 people died from overdoses last year, according to figures released Wednesday by the CDC. That’s about 2% more than the 107,622 overdose deaths in the US in 2021, but less than the 30% increase in 2020 and the 15% increase in 2021.
From 2021 to 2022, while numbers across the country remained relatively flat, many states saw dramatic changes. Twenty-three states reported a decrease in overdose deaths, one state (Iowa) showed no change, and the remaining states continued to increase.
Eight states—Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—reported significant reductions in overdose deaths by about 100 or more from the previous calendar year.
Some of these states had the highest overdose death rates during the epidemic, which could be a sign that years of intensive efforts to address the problem are paying off, Keys said. rice field. State officials have cited various factors for the decline, including social media and health education campaigns to warn the public about the dangers of drug use. Expansion of addiction treatment, including telemedicine, and wider distribution of the overdose-recovery drug naloxone.
In addition, the stigma that prevented drug users from seeking help, and some doctors and police officers from helping them, is also fading, said Louisiana, where overdose deaths fell 4% last year. State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Cantor said.
“We’re catching up, and the tide is slowly turning,” said Kanter, whose state has one of the highest rates of overdose deaths in the nation.
Since the mid-1990s, the abuse of prescription opioid pain relievers has been the leading cause of death, followed by a gradual shift to heroin, which caused more deaths in 2015 than prescription pain relievers or other drugs. bottom. A year later, the more lethal fentanyl and its relatives were the top drug killers.
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Last year, most overdose deaths continued to be associated with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. About 75,000 people, an increase of 4% from the previous year. There was also an 11% increase in cocaine-related deaths and a 3% increase in methamphetamine and other stimulant-related deaths.
Overdose deaths are often caused by multiple drugs. Some people take multiple drugs, and officials say cheap fentanyl is increasingly being mixed with other drugs without the buyer’s knowledge.
A study by Dr. Daniel Ciccarone, a drug policy expert at the University of California, San Francisco, suggests that many people who use illegal drugs are turning to methamphetamine and other options, and that “some substitution seems to be happening.” ing. Stay away from fentanyl and fentanyl-contaminated drugs.
Chiccarone said he believes overdose deaths will ultimately be on the decline. He cites improved innovation in counseling and addiction treatment, increased availability of naloxone, and legal action that has resulted in more than $50 billion in proposals and eventual settlements—to strengthen overdose prevention. I mentioned the funds that should be available.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into this 20-year opioid overdose problem,” he said. “You should bend the curve downwards.”
But he also expressed some caution, saying, “We’ve been here before.”
Consider 2018, when the number of overdose deaths dropped 4% year-on-year to about 67,000. After those numbers came out, then-President Donald Trump declared, “We are curbing the opioid epidemic.”
However, overdose deaths rose to a record high of 71,000 in 2019 and then surged during the COVID-19 pandemic to 92,000 in 2020 and 2021. reached 107,000.
Lockdowns and other pandemic-era restrictions have isolated drug addicts and made it difficult for them to get treatment, experts say.
Keys believes the numbers for 2022 didn’t get any worse, partly because isolation eased as the pandemic subsided. But some say future challenges may lie ahead, such as increased detection of the veterinary tranquilizer xylazine in the illicit drug supply and proposals to curtail prescriptions for addiction medication via telemedicine.
“What the last two decades of this overdose crisis have taught us is that this is really a moving target,” Keys said. “And even when you think you’ve solved a problem, it can take a new and different turn.”
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