The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released preliminary data
last week that suggests U.S. drug overdose deaths
have fallen for the first time in 20 years. There were an estimated 68,557 deaths from overdoses in the U.S. in 2018 copared to a preliminary figure of 72,224 in 2017. The 5.6 percent decline marks the first drop in overdose deaths since 1999.
Despite the welcome news, there are still reasons to be cautious. Even though overall deaths are thought to have declined, overdose deaths from synthetic opioids
like fentanyl increased. Fentanyl is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and it is accounting for an increasing share of the illegal drug market. It has been blamed for a spate of cocaine deaths in recent months afte it emerged that quantities of cocaine had been laced with it.
It is also important to note that the decline has not been universal. Even though Ohio and Pennsylvania experienced declines of around 20 percent, 18 states saw year-over-year increases. Missouri was among them with its overdose deaths rising an alarming 17 percent.