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Opioid fatalities now outnumber breast cancer deaths

SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP
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Supporting President Trump's declaration of a public health emergency, Center for Health Statistics releases chilling numbers

Fatalities from opioid overdoses in the United States now outnumber deaths from breast cancer, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report is full of bad news:

  • In 2016, there were more than 63,600 drug overdose deaths in the United States, making it the most lethal year yet of the drug overdose epidemic.
  • The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths increased from 6.1 per 100,000 standard population in 1999 to 19.8 in 2016
  • The rate shot up by an astounding 18% per year from 2014 to 2016 alone.
  • The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone doubled from 2015 to 2016. That rate was only 0.3 per 100,000 in 1999 and 1.0 in 2013, but by 2015 it was up to 3.1, and in 2016 6.2

As CNN pointed out, in 2016 alone, 42,249 US drug fatalities involved opioids, exceeding by over a thousand the annual number of Americans who die from breast cancer. The network also noted that the increase in overdose deaths have contributed to a shortening of the US life expectancy for a second year in a row.

The statistics support President Donald J. Trump’s decision in October to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

“As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue, the president said. “It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic.”

The National Center for Health Statistics report singled out West Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire as having the highest rates of overdose in 2016. The rate of overdose in West Virginia was over 2.5 times the national average of 19.8 overdose deaths for every 100,000 people. The District of Columbia clocked in at 38.8 overdose deaths per 100,000.

On the other hand, Iowa, North Dakota, Texas, South Dakota, and Nebraska were the states with the lowest observed age-adjusted drug overdose death rates.

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