Fatal drug overdoses in the United States reached an all-time high in 2014, driven largely by heroin and prescription opioid pain reliever abuse. The CDC’s recent analysis of mortality data found that of the 47 055 drug overdose deaths in 2014, 61% involved opioids, a 14% increase from the previous year (Rudd RA et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;64[50-51]:1378-1382).
The rise in opioid overdoses has tracked an increase in prescriptions for opioid pain relievers, which have quadrupled since 1999. Since 2000, opioid deaths have surged by 200%, affecting adults of all ages, races, and genders. Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids (not including methadone) increased by 80% from 2013 to 2014. Illicitly produced fentanyl, a short-acting opioid, is suspected in many of those deaths.
Opioid Overdoses Continue to Climb. JAMA. 2016;315(6):550. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.0085