A record 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses according to 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data released Thursday, prompting experts to point to the proliferation of the potent substance fentanyl.
The CDC’s 2017 data shows that 70,237 Americans died of drug overdoses. That represents a nearly 10 percent increase from 2016, when 63,632 Americans died of drug overdoses. West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania were the states hardest hit in 2017.
Analysts warned that a growing amount of drugs are laced with dangerous substances like the synthetic opioid fentanyl when the CDC released preliminary 2017 overdose statistics in August.
Provisional numbers suggest that 2018 will see a similar number of drug overdose deaths as in 2017, according to the CDC.
Deaths involving fentanyl, its analogs and the opioid tramadol jumped 45 percent from 2016 to 2017 alone, according to CDC data. 2017 saw more than 28,000 deaths involving fentanyl or similar synthetic opioids.
Fentanyl is most common in the eastern and midwestern U.S., where the opioid epidemic is most concentrated. Illicit fentanyl is often made in Mexico or China and cut into supplies of heroin or cocaine as it is stronger and cheaper than both of those substances.
Meanwhile, the number of deaths from legal painkillers and heroin stayed steady in the U.S. in 2017 compared to 2016, reported The Washington Post.
Drug overdose deaths have increased more than fourfold since 1999, according to WaPo. The increase in drug overdose deaths compounded with a rising suicide rate contributed to a fall in life expectancy for Americans in 2017 according to CDC data.
“The idea that a developed wealthy nation like ours has declining life expectancy just doesn’t seem right,” Robert Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at the CDC, told The New York Times blog The Upshot. “If you look at the other wealthy countries of the world, they’re not seeing the same thing.”
The CDC released a wide-ranging data mortality survey Thursday and compared 2017’s death rates to those in 1999.
Life expectancy for the U.S. population fell from 78.7 in 2016 to 78.6 in 2017, according to CDC data. That decline was impacted by higher suicide and drug overdose rates that hit middle-aged Americans especially hard, according to The Associated Press.