During 1999‒2015, 568,699 persons died from drug overdoses in the United States.* Drug overdose deaths in the United States increased 11.4% from 2014 to 2015 resulting in 52,404 deaths in 2015, including 33,091 (63.1%) that involved an opioid. The largest rate increases from 2014 to 2015 occurred among deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (synthetic opioids) (72.2%) (1). Because of demographic and geographic variations in overdose deaths involving different drugs (2,3),† CDC examined age-adjusted death rates for overdoses involving all opioids, opioid subcategories (i.e., prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opioids),§ cocaine, and psychostimulants with abuse potential (psychostimulants) by demographics, urbanization levels, and in 31 states and the District of Columbia (DC). There were 63,632 drug overdose deaths in 2016; 42,249 (66.4%) involved an opioid.¶ From 2015 to 2016, deaths increased across all drug categories examined. The largest overall rate increases occurred among deaths involving cocaine (52.4%) and synthetic opioids (100%), likely driven by illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF) (2,3). Increases were observed across demographics, urbanization levels, and states and DC. The opioid overdose epidemic in the United States continues to worsen. A multifaceted approach, with faster and more comprehensive surveillance, is needed to track emerging threats to prevent and respond to the overdose epidemic through naloxone availability, safe prescribing practices, harm-reduction services, linkage into treatment, and more collaboration between public health and public safety agencies.
Drug overdose deaths were identified in the National Vital Statistics System multiple cause-of-death mortality files,** using the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10), based on ICD-10 underlying cause-of-death codes X40–44 (unintentional), X60–64 (suicide), X85 (homicide), or Y10–Y14 (undetermined intent). Among deaths with drug overdose as the underlying cause, the type of drug or drug category is indicated by the following ICD-10 multiple cause-of-death codes: opioids (T40.0, T40.1, T40.2, T40.3, T40.4, or T40.6)††; natural/semisynthetic opioids (T40.2); methadone (T40.3); heroin (T40.1); synthetic opioids other than methadone (T40.4); cocaine (T40.5); and psychostimulants with abuse potential (T43.6). Some deaths involved more than one type of drug; these deaths were included in the rates for each drug category. Therefore, categories are not mutually exclusive.§§
Age-adjusted overdose death rates¶¶ were examined for 2015 and 2016 for all opioids, opioid subcategories (prescription opioids [i.e., natural/semisynthetic opioids and methadone] (4), heroin, and synthetic opioids), cocaine, and psychostimulants in the United States and by age, sex, racial/ethnic group, urbanization level,*** and state. State-level analyses included 31 states and DC that met the following criteria: 1) ≥80% of drug overdose death certificates named at least one specific drug in 2015 and 2016; 2) change from 2015 to 2016 in the percentage of death certificates reporting at least one specific drug was <10 percentage points†††; and 3) ≥20 deaths occurred during 2015 and 2016 in at least two drug categories examined. These inclusion criteria were selected to ensure accurate examination of death rates and increases. Relative change in age-adjusted rates and absolute change were calculated. Significance was assessed using z-tests when the number of deaths was ≥100 (p<0.05) and nonoverlapping confidence intervals based on a gamma distribution when the number of deaths was <100.§§§
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