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Deadly drug ODs fell for the first time in 5 years, but remain at crisis levels

The New York Daily News - 5/15/2024

The number of fatal drug overdoses in the U.S. dropped for the first time since 2018, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But despite the welcoming drop of approximately 3% in overdose deaths, officials say the nation’s ongoing drug crisis continues to be “a public safety, public health, and national security issue,” with more than 100,000 reported deaths from December 2022 to December 2023.

The first time the country reached that grim milestone was in 2021.

Overall last year, drug overdoses claimed the lives of 107,543 people across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the provisional data.

That number represents a national decline of 3.1% in drug deaths in 2023, though the progress was uneven — from a 25% drop in fatalities in Nebraska to an increase of just over 44% in Alaska.

In New York City, the number of fatalities dropped slightly from 3,187 in 2022 to 3,156 a year later, or a decrease of about 1%. New York State, excluding the five boroughs, experienced an even bigger change — from 3,483 to 3,362 overdose deaths, or about a 3.5% drop.

While celebrating the data as “heartening news,” which “demonstrates we are making progress to prevent deaths from drug overdoses,” CDC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deb Houry said there’s more work to be done.

“There are still families and friends losing their loved ones to drug overdoses at staggering numbers,” she said. “This progress over the last 12 months should make us want to reinvigorate our efforts knowing that our strategies are making a difference.”

According to the CDC data, such shockingly high numbers are related to a massive increase in the usage of chemical-based drugs, such as fentanyl and methamphetamine, in recent years.

But while the number of fentanyl deaths dropped slightly by about 2%, overdose deaths from cocaine and psychostimulants, including meth, saw a 3.4% increase.

“The shift from plant-based drugs, like heroin and cocaine, to synthetic, chemical-based drugs, like fentanyl and methamphetamine, has resulted in the most dangerous and deadly drug crisis the United States has ever faced,” Anne Milgram, Drug Enforcement Agency administrator, said in a statement last week.

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