UNITED STATES – For the first time since 1999, preliminary official data reveals drug overdose deaths in the United States have dropped.
According to figures from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it shows a decline of 5.1% in 2018 when compared to one year earlier in 2017.
Secretary Alex Azar of Health and Human Services said opioid-linked deaths have decreased.
“US efforts to curb opioid use disorder and addiction are working,” Azar noted in a statement, but added that “the issue will not be solved overnight”.
Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have died during the last few decades in what is attributed to an ongoing opioid crisis problem in the US.
There was a devastating spike in fatal drug overdoses between 2014 and 2017, following a rise in death toll numbers each year from 1999 to 2017.
Research from the CDC indicates that 68,557 people are estimated to have died during 2018, which is a decline from 2017 with 72,224 deaths.
The number of deaths that resulted from natural and semi-synthetic opioids, which include painkillers such as codeine, oxycodone, and morphine dropped by 14.5%. This was the sharpest percentage decline out of any drug category.
However, synthetic opioid deaths linked to drugs like fentanyl saw a rise. Fentanyl is known to be up to 100 times more potent than morphine, and unfortunately, it has been flooding illegal drug markets in the US.
“Lives are being saved, and we’re beginning to win the fight against this crisis,” Alex Azar’s statement mentions, which praised efforts made by the Trump administration along with efforts from communities throughout the US for the shift in percentages.
Although Mr. Azar described the drop as “encouraging”, he also said “by no means have we declared victory against the epidemic or addiction in general.”
“This crisis developed over two decades and it will not be solved overnight.”