Fentanyl Is Driving the Rise in Opioid Deaths

Paramedics load a man into an ambulance after they revived him with opioid-blocker Narcan in the Drexel neighborhood of Dayton Ohio on Aug. 3 2017

Those areas did see a drop in overdose deaths over the course of the year, and that trend has continued into 2018. Both Vermont and MA had fewer deaths in that time period.

"A majority of abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet", Ebied said.

"There's a lot of money going into the system, and it takes some time for this to translate into new infrastructure", said Chris Jones, the director of the national mental health and substance use policy laboratory. Ciccarone said the real number could be as high as 4 million.

The CDC's numbers for 2017 are just an estimate, not a final count.

More than 72,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2017, up almost 7% from 2016, according to preliminary data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"While the opioid epidemic is a major concern, it is worth mentioning there are non-opioids overdoses representing 32.1%" of the total overdose deaths for 2017, Ebied said.

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At the other end of the spectrum the plains states had some of the lowest death rates.

Investigators attribute the deaths to the opioids fentanyl and carfentanil - synthetic painkillers far more potent than heroin.

Overdose deaths rose sharply in several Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states.

In New Haven, police arrested two suspects they believe were selling and handing out the drugs. In addition, the rate of opioid-related deaths in the farming, fishing, and forestry occupations was more than five times the average rate for MA workers, despite the small number of workers in these fields.

States with the highest increases in drug deaths include Nebraska (33 percent), North Carolina (23 percent), New Jersey (21 percent), in (15 percent), Arkansas (11 percent), ME (11 percent), West Virginia (11 percent), SC (10 percent) and Tennessee (10 percent). "That's particularly true for places where it wasn't already there". After instituting a new emergency response strategy - and drawing from new federal and state grant funds - the county health department has documented reductions in overdose deaths, emergency room visits and ambulance calls of more than 60 percent between January 2017 and June of this year.

Other positive steps include increasing supply of naloxone, the opioid antidote, to first responders, while some states, including his own, are taking steps to limit opioid prescribing. Nebraska had the fewest with just 8.2 deaths per 100,000, a rate less than one-seventh the rate in West Virginia.

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