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CDC Reports Possible Plateau in Overdose Deaths

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's provisional data on U.S. overdose deaths through the first six months of this year suggest the death rate has plateaued, but the numbers are far from an unqualified victory, the Associated Press reports. Overdose deaths in the U.S. fell three months in a row. The CDC estimated there were about 107,600 overdose deaths for the 12-month period between July 2021 and June 2022. That’s 40 fewer than in the 2021 calendar year. But the decreases were concentrated in eight states, and only four — Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — reported sizable decreases of 100 or more compared to the previous July-to-June period. Still, Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, called the numbers "a hopeful trend of a decrease in overdose deaths."


U.S. overdose death rates began steadily climbing in the 1990s, driven by opioid painkillers, followed by waves of deaths led by other opioids like heroin and — most recently — illicit fentanyl. Last year, more than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, the highest tally in U.S. history. Officials in the four states showing the greatest progress said there was no single explanation, but they believe recent efforts may be paying off. They cite social media and health education campaigns to warn the public about the dangers of drug use, expanded addiction treatment and wider distribution of the overdose-reversing medication naloxone. Some researchers are doubtful overdoses have peaked. Instead, they think a spike occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, when lockdowns and other restrictions isolated those with drug addictions and made treatment harder to get.

“We may just be returning to a pre-COVID level. I think we’ll need at least a year more of data to confirm that,” said Erin Winstanley, a West Virginia University researcher focused on the overdose epidemic’s health effects.

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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