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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2018 Jan 4;67(5152):1419-1427. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm675152e1.

Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths - United States, 2013-2017.

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Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC.


The 63,632 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2016 represented a 21.4% increase from 2015; two thirds of these deaths involved an opioid (1). From 2015 to 2016, drug overdose deaths increased in all drug categories examined; the largest increase occurred among deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (synthetic opioids), which includes illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF) (1). Since 2013, driven largely by IMF, including fentanyl analogs (2-4), the current wave of the opioid overdose epidemic has been marked by increases in deaths involving synthetic opioids. IMF has contributed to increases in overdose deaths, with geographic differences reported (1). CDC examined state-level changes in death rates involving all drug overdoses in 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC) and those involving synthetic opioids in 20 states, during 2013-2017. In addition, changes in death rates from 2016 to 2017 involving all opioids and opioid subcategories,* were examined by demographics, county urbanization levels, and by 34 states and DC. Among 70,237 drug overdose deaths in 2017, 47,600 (67.8%) involved an opioid. From 2013 to 2017, drug overdose death rates increased in 35 of 50 states and DC, and significant increases in death rates involving synthetic opioids occurred in 15 of 20 states, likely driven by IMF (2,3). From 2016 to 2017, overdose deaths involving all opioids and synthetic opioids increased, but deaths involving prescription opioids and heroin remained stable. The opioid overdose epidemic continues to worsen and evolve because of the continuing increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids. Provisional data from 2018 indicate potential improvements in some drug overdose indicators;§ however, analysis of final data from 2018 is necessary for confirmation. More timely and comprehensive surveillance data are essential to inform efforts to prevent and respond to opioid overdoses; intensified prevention and response measures are urgently needed to curb deaths involving prescription and illicit opioids, specifically IMF.

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