The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report Wednesday that indicated more than 72,000 Americans died of a drug overdose a year ago, a number greater than the CDC has noted at any time in history. The death toll is higher than the peak yearly death totals from HIV, auto crashes or gun deaths.
A New York Times report point to two main reasons for the surge: More Americans are using opioids, and drugs are becoming more deadly.
The picture is not equally bleak everywhere. Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont all saw declines.
But nationwide, the crisis worsened in the first year of the Donald Trump presidency, a continuation of a long-term trend.
President Donald Trump has declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency, but stopped short a year ago of declaring a state of emergency that would've given states access to funding from the federal Disaster Relief Fund. "Because of the forces of stigma, the population is reluctant to seek care".
Overall in the United States, fatal drug overdoses increased by 6.6 percent from 2016 to 2017.
"We're eager to raise awareness at the highest levels of the federal government for a better sense of what happened and the challenges that urban centers face in terms of combatting a consistent vexing presence of people with substance abuse disorder", Harp said. "The dominant factor is the changing drug supply". "We have had a massive increase in the amount of drugs that are laced with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, so I'm not too shocked there was a rise in the data". In some places, the type of synthetic drugs mixed into heroin changes often, increasing the risk for users.
Deaths involving synthetic opioids including fentanyl surged to almost 30,000 in 2017, according to the data, up more than 9,000 over the prior year.
Of their data, 29,406 overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids.
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The report found that workers in occupations with higher rates of work-related injuries had higher rates of opioid overdose deaths. In New Jersey, they rose 27 percent.
The report, "Opioid-related Overdose Deaths in MA by Industry and Occupation, 2011-2015", was created by the DPH's Occupational Health Surveillance Program in collaboration with the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, Injury Surveillance Program, and Office of Special Analytic Projects, and was funded by the CDC. The CDC adjusts these figures to correct for underreporting, since some recorded deaths are still pending full investigation. The monthly CDC numbers suggest that deaths might have begun leveling off by the end of the year.
Harp said the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will provide New Haven with recovery coaches, training, dissemination of naloxone, and funding for a street psychiatrist.
In 2017, New Hanover Regional Medical Center EMS responded to 529 opioid overdoses, according to data provided by a spokesperson.
In Dayton, Ohio, a hot spot for the epidemic, public health officials are seeing signs of progress.
"The most striking patterns at the national level are the recent increases in the numbers of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids (excluding methadone)", Lauren Rossen, co-author of the report and a statistician at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, wrote in an email. "It's definitely wait and see", she said.
While none of the people affected by the overdoses crisis in New Haven this week have died and it is still unclear whether fentanyl played a role in the outbreak, the rash of overdoses is a startling reminder that CT is in the midst of a significant substance use crisis, despite ongoing and unified efforts to address it.
The epidemic could also intensify again. Nebraska had the fewest with just 8.2 deaths per 100,000, a rate less than one-seventh the rate in West Virginia. If that becomes more widespread, the overdose rates in the West could explode as they have in parts of the East.