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IVP & Safe States News: Prescription Drug

Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths—United States, 2017-2018

Friday, March 20, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Julie Alonso
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CDC released a new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) of final 2018 data describing opioid-involved overdose deaths in the United States. The article, Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths—United States, 2017-2018, reports that in 2018, there were 46,802 opioid-involved overdose deaths. While the opioid-involved overdose death rate decreased 2.0% from 2017 to 2018, 69.5% of all drug overdose deaths still involved an opioid.



Overdose death rates involving prescription opioids decreased by 13.5%, and overdose death rates involving heroin decreased by 4.1% from 2017 to 2018. Although these decreases are encouraging, the overdose death rate involving synthetic opioids increased by 10.0% in that same time period, and synthetic opioids were involved in more than 67.0% of all opioid overdose deaths in 2018. The MMWR reports changes in age-adjusted death rates during 2017–2018 involving all opioids and opioid subcategories by demographic characteristics, county urbanization levels, U.S. Census region, and state.



The 2018 data from this report show:


Opioid-involved overdose death rates decreased by 2.0%, from 14.9 per 100,000 population in 2017 to 14.6 in 2018.

  • Rates decreased among females and among persons aged 15–34 years, 45–54 years, non-Hispanic whites, and in small metro, and nonmetropolitan areas.
  • Rates increased among persons aged ≥65 years, non-Hispanic blacks, and Hispanics. Opioid-involved death rates increased in the Northeast and the West and decreased in the Midwest and the South from 2017 to 2018.

Prescription opioid-involved overdose death rates decreased by 13.5%. These death rates decreased among males and females, persons aged 15–64 years, non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Natives, and across all urbanization levels.

  • Rates remained stable in the Northeast and decreased in the Midwest, South, and the West.
  • Among the 38 states meeting inclusion criteria, seventeen states experienced declines in prescription opioid-involved death rates, with no states experiencing significant increases.

Heroin-involved death rates decreased 4.1% from 2017 to 2018; reductions occurred among males and females, persons aged 15–34 years, non-Hispanic whites, and in large central metro and large fringe metro areas.

  • Rates decreased in the Midwest and increased in the West.
  • Rates decreased in seven states and DC and increased in three states from 2017 to 2018.

Synthetic opioid-involved overdose death rates (excluding methadone) increased by 10.0% from 2017 to 2018. These death rates increased among males and females, persons aged ≥25 years, non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islanders, and in large central metro, large fringe metro, medium metro, and small metro counties.

  • Synthetic opioid-involved overdose death rates increased in the Northeast, South and West and remained stable in the Midwest.
  • Rates increased in 10 states and decreased in two states.



What can be done?


Efforts related to preventing all opioid overdose deaths, particularly deaths involving synthetic opioids, should be strengthened to sustain and accelerate declines in opioid overdose deaths. Comprehensive surveillance and prevention measures are critical to reducing opioid overdose deaths, including continued surveillance of evolving drug use and overdose, polysubstance use, and the changing illicit drug market; naloxone distribution and outreach to groups at risk for illicitly manufactured fentanyl exposure; linkage to evidence-based treatment for persons with substance use disorders; and continued partnerships with public safety.


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