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U.S. Drug Overdose Deaths Up Again; Rise Is Below COVID Level

Drug overdose deaths in the U.S. increased slightly last year after two big leaps during the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the numbers plateaued for most of last year. Experts aren’t sure whether that means the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in U.S. history is finally reaching a peak, or whether it’ll look like previous plateaus that were followed by new surges in deaths, reports the Associated Press. “The fact that it does seem to be flattening out, at least at a national level, is encouraging,” said Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University epidemiology professor. “But these numbers are still extraordinarily high. We shouldn’t suggest the crisis is in any way over.”


An estimated 109,680 overdose deaths occurred last year, according to numbers posted Wednesday by the CDC. That’s about 2% more than the 107,622 U.S. overdose deaths in 2021, but nothing like the 30% increase seen in 2020, and 15% increase in 2021. While the overall national number was relatively static between 2021 and 2022, there were dramatic changes in a number of states: 23 reported fewer overdose deaths, one — Iowa — saw no change, and the rest continued to increase. Eight states — Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — reported sizable overdose death decreases of about 100 or more compared with the previous calendar year. Some of these states had high overdose death rates during the epidemic, which Keyes said might be a sign that years of concentrated work to address the problem is paying off. State officials cited various factors for the decline, like social media and health education campaigns to warn about the dangers of drug use; expanded addiction treatment — including telehealth — and wider distribution of the overdose-reversing medication naloxone.


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