Fatal drug overdoses more than doubled since 1999, CDC finds

Posted February 25, 2017

And while the overdose death rate for illicitly-obtained opioids like fentanyl - the drug involved in the death of musician Prince - is skyrocketing (it jumped 73% from 2014 to 2015, according to last year's version of this CDC report), the overdose death rate from many other legal prescription opioids is rising far more slowly (4% over the same period, that report found).

Researchers acknowledged that several factors could affect death rate measurement, including but not limited to the fact that drug overdose deaths can involve multiple drugs.

The NCHS report relied on mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System and did not examine underlying cause of deaths.

Heroin-related deaths in the U.S. skyrocketed in the span of five years, amounting to a quarter of all overdose deaths by 2015, according to new federal data, presenting another grim snapshot of America's opioid epidemic. More than 33,000 people died from opioids in 2015, and the CDC noted almost 500,000 people between 2000 to 2015 have suffered related deaths.

The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2015 (16.3 per 100,000) was more than 2.5 times the rate in 1999 (6.1). In that time frame, heroin deaths increased from 8 percent to 25 percent. Similarly, the percentage of deaths caused by fentanyl and other synthetic opioids (with the exception of methadone) climbed from 8 percent to 18 percent from 2010 to 2015.

The states with the highest rates were: West Virginia, with 41.5 per 100,000; New Hampshire, with 34.3; and Kentucky and OH each with 29.9.

To try to stop overdose deaths, access has been increased to naloxone (Narcan), a drug used to reverse an opioid overdose, Vuolo said.

While overdose death rates increased for all age groups, those aged 55 to 64 saw the largest percentage increase, the study found.

Beyond opioids, cocaine was responsible for 13 percent of fatal overdoses in 2015, up from 11 percent in 2010.

This increase occurred despite growing awareness of the opioid epidemic and a rise in funding for opioid addiction treatment, said Mooney, who was not involved in the research.

The heroin and opioid epidemic has taken its toll. Rather than use one or two doses they're using 10 doses to try and save a patient's life.

"When you use an elephant tranquilizer on a human, bad things are going to happen", Slovis said, according to ABC.

Shelly Prasad Chawla contributed to this article.