Drug Overdose Deaths Sit at Record Levels for Second Consecutive Year

“The fact that it does seem to be flattening out, at least at a national level, is encouraging. But these numbers are still extraordinarily high."


Drug overdose deaths rose slightly in 2022 in the United States, marking the second year the total surpassed 100,000, estimates released Wednesday show.

The Centers for Disease Control's provisional count tallied 109,680 deaths last year -- only several hundred more than the 109,179 estimated in 2021, the data indicates.

Some experts say the numbers could be indicative of a positive development in the nation's epidemic, with numbers plateauing and coming to a peak after bumps in 2020 and 2021 that were as high as 30% and 15%, respectively.

But previous plateaus also were followed by surges, the Associated Press reported.

“The fact that it does seem to be flattening out, at least at a national level, is encouraging,” Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University epidemiology professor, told the AP. “But these numbers are still extraordinarily high. We shouldn’t suggest the crisis is in any way over.”

Still, the data showed how the epidemic receded a bit in some regions, with 23 states reporting fewer deaths than the previous year.

Iowa reported no change between the two years, while the rest of the states experienced more deaths than in the previous year.

According to the AP, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia saw decreases of 100 or more overdose deaths in 2022 compared to 2021.

Several of those states, meanwhile, had previously experienced some of the highest death rates in recent years.

Keyes told the AP the drop could be a signal that years of work to impact the epidemic may now be taking hold.

Dr. Joseph Kanter, Louisiana's state health officer, said the stigma around drug use that has long discouraged those struggling from seeking help is eroding.

Overdose deaths fell by 4% last year in Louisiana, a state with one of the nation's highest death rates.

“We’re catching up and the tide’s turning — slowly,” Kanter told the AP.

According to the news service, most overdose deaths in 2022 -- or about 75,000 -- were connected to synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.

Deaths spurred by cocaine also rose by 11%, while deaths involving meth and other stimulants jumped by 3%, the AP reported.

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