Drug overdoses killed more than 72,300 Americans last year, a record and a rise of around 10 percent, according to new preliminary estimates from the Centers for Disease Control.
It’s not clear whether the opioid epidemic has reached its peak. The death toll, which has doubled over the last decade, is more than the highest yearly death totals from H.I.V., car crashes or gun deaths.
A growing number of Americans are using opioids, and those drugs are becoming more deadly. Experts who are closely monitoring the epidemic say the second factor most likely explains the bulk of the increased number of overdoses last year.
The picture is not equally bleak everywhere. In parts of New England, where a more dangerous drug supply arrived early, the number of overdoses has begun to fall. That was the case in Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island; each state has had major public health campaigns and has increased addiction treatment. Preliminary 2018 numbers from Massachusetts suggest that the death rate there may be continuing to fall.