Overdose Deaths in 2016 Reach Record High
According to a recent government report, overdose deaths in 2016 continued to climb despite efforts to combat the epidemic. The National Center for Health Statistics states the estimates for the first 9 months of 2016 were higher than the first nine months of the previous year, which already had reached an all time high of 52,404 fatal overdoses.
In 2016 the third quarter saw all drug overdose deaths peak at 19.9 cases for every 100,000 people, compared to the 16.7 in the same period as the previous year. The first two quarters showed death rates of 18.9 and 19.3, which are far greater than the corresponding periods in 2015. Data for the fourth quarter of 2016 is not yet available.
Given the current data and anecdotal information, many experts expect a large increase in deaths in 2016, which were driven by the worsening crisis in overdoses from opioids including fentanyl and heroin. It is estimated that six in 10 drug overdose deaths are caused by opioids.
A New York Times Report from June predicted that the number of overdose deaths would exceed 60,000 in 2016. This was based on the data compiled from hundreds of state health departments and county coroners and medical examiners. If this prediction is correct, that number would mark the sharpest annual increase ever recorded.
A study conducted by the University of Virginia states that the numbers of deaths due to heroin and opioid overdoses have actually been severely underreported. A professor of public policy and economics from the university suggests that opioid death rates for 2014 may have been as much as 24 percent greater than previously reported.