From 2000 to 2014 nearly half a million Americans died from drug overdoses. Opioid overdose deaths, including both opioid pain relievers and heroin, hit record levels in 2014, with an alarming 14 percent increase in just one year, according to new data published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The most commonly prescribed opioid pain relievers, those classified as natural or semi-synthetic opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, continue to be involved in more overdose deaths than any other opioid type. These deaths increased by 9 percent (813 more deaths in 2014 than 2013).
Increases in prescription opioid pain reliever and heroin deaths are the biggest driver of the drug overdose epidemic. Deaths from heroin increased in 2014, continuing a sharp rise that has seen heroin overdoses triple since 2010. Deaths involving illicitly made fentanyl, a potent opioid often added to or sold as heroin, also are on the upswing.
“The increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose is alarming,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. in a news release. “The opioid epidemic is devastating American families and communities. To curb these trends and save lives, we must help prevent addiction and provide support and treatment to those who suffer from opioid use disorders. This report also shows how important it is that law enforcement intensify efforts to reduce the availability of heroin, illegal fentanyl, and other illegal opioids.”
Drug overdose deaths are up in both men and women and in adults of nearly all ages. Rates of drug overdose deaths were highest among five states: West Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Kentucky, and Ohio. A map of drug overdose deaths by state (2013 and 2014) is available for review.