72K Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, CDC estimates

Fatal drug overdoses killed more Americans than HIV, car crashes or guns in 2017, claiming 72,000 lives, according to a preliminary estimation from the CDC.

This figure marks a 10 percent increase from 2016. Analysts attributed the spike in overdose deaths to more Americans using opioids and the heightened prevalence of more potent synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, according to The New York Times.

The CDC estimates deaths attributed to synthetic opioid use rose sharply in 2017, while deaths attributed to heroin, methadone and prescription opioids fell.

Initially, the opioid epidemic mainly affected white populations in rural areas. Now, deaths are more widespread and the toll differs by state. Preliminary data from Massachusetts illustrates the death rate will continue to fall in 2018. However, some states in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions, such as Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia, each saw opioid overdose deaths increase more than 17 percent in 2017. In New Jersey, opioid overdose deaths increased 27 percent. Nationwide there were 48,612 opioid overdose deaths in 2017, according to the CDC's estimate. 

The CDC's 2017 estimate is not a final count. The agency collects most of this data using confirmed death records from each state. As some investigations can take longer than others, the CDC adjusts its estimate based on the number of deaths still under investigation.

Editor's note: This article was updated Aug. 17.

More articles on opioids: 

Oregon Medicaid proposal would cut all opioids for chronic pain patients
Johns Hopkins creates opioid guidelines for 20 common surgeries
Dr. Toby Cosgrove: Opioid epidemic has 'peaked'

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