More than 72,000 people died from drug overdoses between January 2017 and January 2018, according to new estimates from the Center for Disease Control.
That represents a 14 percent rise over 2016, despite a year of calls for action on the drug epidemic from national politicians and the media. Drug deaths continue to eclipse every other cause of non-disease death in the United States, including car crashes, homicides, and suicides. More people died from drug overdoses in 2017 than at any point in the preceding two decades.
The driving force behind last year’s increase is the dangerous class of synthetic opioids called fentanyls, predominantly the medical painkiller fentanyl, but also deadlier analogs like carfentanil and acetylfentanyl. Indeed, while fentanyl overdose rates have continued their meteoric year-on-year climb, rates of death from other opioids—heroin and prescription drugs like OxyContin and hydrocodone—appear to have slowed.