Opioid Abuse Drives New Record in U.S. Overdose Deaths

Drug overdose deaths hit a new high in the U.S. last year, largely spurred by the epidemic in prescription painkiller and heroin abuse.

The numbers, released in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are startling.

Last year, drug overdoses killed 47,055 people in the U.S. That was 6.5 percent higher than a year earlier. The highest rates of death from overdose were seen in West Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Kentucky, and Ohio, according to the CDC.

Deaths from opioids such as prescription pain killers and heroin accounted for 61 percent of the deaths from drug overdoses. They jumped 14 percent last year.

Since 2000, deaths overall from drug overdoses have increased 137 percent, while those from opioids have soared by 200 percent. Half a million people in the United States have died from drug overdoses since 2000.

Lower heroin prices--which attract people addicted to more expensive painkillers--wider availability and higher purity are causing more overdoses, the agency reported.

"The increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose is alarming," CDC Director Tom Frieden said. "The opioid epidemic is devastating American families and communities." The Center recommends stricter guidelines for prescribing painkillers and wider access to naloxone, an antidote for opioid-related overdoses.

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Sourced from: Reuters Health, Opioid abuse propels record U.S. deaths from overdose