US drug overdose deaths fell slightly in 2018

Posted at 11:19 AM, Jul 17, 2019

US drug overdose deaths declined 5.1% in 2018, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

The slight decline in drug overdose deaths marked the first such drop in decades.

The agency estimates there were 68,557 drug overdose deaths in 2018. An estimated 47,590 involved opioids, including oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine, and 31,897 involved synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and tramadol.

The data will not be finalized until next year.

Opioid prescribing has dropped since the CDC issued opioid prescribing guidelines in early 2016, which resulted both in doctors prescribing fewer opioids as well as insurers providing less coverage for opioids.

In a statement, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said efforts by the Trump administration and around the United States had increased the number of patients receiving medication-assisted treatment and overdose-reversing drugs, while opioid prescriptions had fallen.

"The latest provisional data on overdose deaths show that America's united efforts to curb opioid use disorder and addiction are working. Lives are being saved, and we're beginning to win the fight against this crisis," Azar said.

"While the declining trend of overdose deaths is an encouraging sign, by no means have we declared victory against the epidemic or addiction in general. This crisis developed over two decades and it will not be solved overnight."