Drug overdose deaths continue to surge in the United States, with most fatalities linked to the illicit use of prescription painkillers, new government statistics reveal.
Drug overdose deaths increased 23 percent between 2010 and 2014, with more than 47,000 Americans dying in 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data released Tuesday shows.
But updated numbers from the CDC also show that more than 52,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2015, and just over 33,000 of those deaths (63 percent) involved a prescription or illicit opioid.
The CDC noted, in its national update released Dec. 16 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, that more than 300,000 Americans have lost their lives to an opioid overdose since 2000.
Heroin continues to be the deadliest narcotic in the United States, killing nearly 11,000 people in 2014 — nearly one of every four overdose deaths that year, according to the report by Margaret Warner, of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, and colleagues. Their findings were published Dec. 20 in the agency’s National Vital Statistics Reports.
But the threat posed by the more powerful synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, is rising exponentially as these drugs become more widely used, the investigators found.
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