62k people died of drug overdoses in 2016, NYT projects

When the CDC finishes tallying drug overdose deaths for 2016, the number will likely fall between 59,000 and 65,000, according to a New York Times projection authored by John Katz.

The Times' exact estimate, 62,500 overdose deaths, represents a 19 percent increase from the 52,404 deaths seen in 2015 — a record high. If the Times' projection holds up, the sharp increase would be the largest such single-year increase in drug overdoses ever recorded.

Powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl are the primary drivers in the rising rates of overdose deaths, overwhelming coroner's offices in states like Ohio where synthetic opioids are widely disseminated.

"Most of the time, it's [fentanyl] sold on the street as heroin, or drug traffickers use it to make cheap counterfeit prescription opioids," wrote Mr. Katz. "Fentanyls are showing up in cocaine as well, contributing to an increase in cocaine-related overdoses."

To create the estimate, the Times requested statistics on drug overdose deaths from state health departments in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The official numbers from the CDC's Mortality Statistics Branch of the National Center for Health Statistics will not be released until December as toxicology results needed to officially determine cause of death can sometimes take more than six months to come in, according to the Times

More articles on opioids:  
Carfentanil behind rise in opioid overdoses in Manatee County, says Florida police official 
How a 101-word letter in an academic journal helped fuel the opioid epidemic 
HHS makes $70M in grants available to address opioid epidemic

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