More Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016 than in the Vietnam War

Provisional data the CDC released in September suggested more than 64,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2016, which surpasses the 58,200 Americans who died in the Vietnam War and the 50,682 people who died from HIV/AIDS in 1995, according to a report from the Police Executive Research Forum.

The number of drug overdose deaths in 2016 marks a 21 percent increase from a year prior. Opioid overdoses were attributable to about 75 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016.

The provisional CDC data indicates increased use of heroin and extremely potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl are largely to blame for the rising rates of overdose deaths. In a survey of police chiefs conducted earlier this year cited in the PERF report, 50 percent of respondents reported a rise in fatal heroin overdoses in their jurisdiction from 2015 to 2016.

"Fentanyl is driving the sharp increases in opioid-related fatalities," wrote the report's authors. "Between 2015 and 2016, fentanyl related deaths nationwide increased 103 percent, to a new total of 20,145. By contrast, heroin-related deaths increased 17 percent, to a total of 15,466."

The CDC's provisional data cited in the report is incomplete, as it is based on currently available death records. Fatalities under investigation in certain jurisdictions have yet to be issued a permanent cause of death.

More articles on opioids: 
Pennsylvania county opioid epidemic lawsuit names 23 defendants 
Opioid crisis most important health issue in state, say West Virginians 
Trump to declare opioid crisis a national emergency next week

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