Increase is due to use of synthetic opioids. There were also signs that the epidemic may be abating.
The number of lives lost to drug overdoses increased by 9.5% in 2017, topping 72,000, according to a provisional report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A Washington Post analysis of the report found that the increase in overdose deaths was largely due to a surge in the use of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
The report, which the CDC noted was based on preliminary data, revealed that in 2017 almost 30,000 people died of overdoses of synthetic opioids, an increase of more than 9,000 from the previous year.
Pharmaceutical fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, is prescribed for severe pain. Because of its heroin-like effects, it is often abused and sold though illegal drug markets.
Despite the bad news, there were some glimmers of hope in the report. Deaths involving natural opiates, including oxycodone and hydrocone seem to have plateaued.
The CDC’s data also showed that the overdose rate decreased in a number of states, including Vermont and Massachusetts, where overdose rates were among the highest in the nation.