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CDC: Fentanyl use drove record high overdose deaths in 2017

19 August 2018

Almost 72,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2017, about 7 percent more than in the previous year, according to new provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some of the states that saw the largest increase were North Carolina and New Jersey, each reporting an increase of better than 20 percent in 2017.

A Washington Post analysis of the report found that the increase in overdose deaths was largely due to a surge in the use of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

Initially, the opioid epidemic mainly affected white populations in rural areas. Preliminary data from MA illustrates the death rate will continue to fall in 2018.

More than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a new record.

In addition to the three New England states, overdose deaths fell in Wyoming (minus 33 percent), Utah (minus 12 percent), Oklahoma (minus 9 percent), Montana (minus 8 percent), South Dakota (minus 8 percent), Hawaii (minus 5 percent), Kansas (minus 2 percent), MS (minus 2 percent), New Mexico (minus 2 percent) and North Dakota (minus 1 percent).

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The CDC cautions that these figures are early estimates based on monthly death records processed by the agency.

Editor's note: This article was updated August 17.

Here and across the country, the rise in deadly overdoses has been driven by synthetic drugs, including fentanyl. Nebraska reported an increase of over 33 percent. Continuing funding may help more states develop the kind of public health programs that appear to have helped in New England.

In 2017, New Hanover Regional Medical Center EMS responded to 529 opioid overdoses, according to data provided by a spokesperson. "That's particularly true for places where it wasn't already there". New Hampshire had the most deaths in Northern New England (458 in January 2017 and 472 in January 2018) but the number of deaths increased at a slower rate (3.1 percent). Numerous measures, which have passed the House but have not reached the Senate floor, are focused on reducing medical prescriptions of opioids, and are meant to reduce the number of new drug users.

A safer injection facility allows people to use opioids like heroin in a supervised location where a caregiver can administer naloxone if the person overdoses.

The epidemic could also intensify again. If that becomes more widespread, the overdose rates in the West could explode as they have in parts of the East.

CDC: Fentanyl use drove record high overdose deaths in 2017