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Fatal overdoses decreased in the United States for the first time in 5 years, according to estimates

Deaths from drug overdoses declined last year in the United States as fewer people lost their lives to fentanyl and other opioids, marking the first time the death toll fell in five years , according to estimates recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Federal officials said the numbers show a 3% decline in the estimated number of overdose deaths between 2022 and 2023. The slowdown equates to nearly 3,500 fewer deaths in the United States than the previous year.

The new figures are provisional and may still be updated. Even a slight decline could be a balm for a country where drug overdoses have had devastating consequences: In one survey, more than 40 percent of adults said they knew someone who had lost their life to a drug overdose. drug, according to a Rand study published this year.

Community groups and health officials grappling with the devastating consequences of fentanyl have pushed to equip more people with naloxone, a drug that can stop opioid overdoses and is commonly sold as a nasal spray under the Narcan brand. Los Angeles County officials, for example, praised efforts to distribute Narcan on the streets when they announced last week that overdose deaths had stopped increasing among the homeless.

But even as deaths linked to fentanyl and other opioids in the United States declined between 2022 and 2023, the country saw a slight increase in deaths linked to stimulants such as methamphetamine and cocaine, according to the new estimates.

And not all areas of the country have seen an overall decline in fatal overdoses. “On the East Coast and Midwest we are seeing declines, but on the West Coast, particularly in the upper Northwest, we are still seeing increases,” said Farida Ahmad, a health scientist at the National Statistics Center of health.

Federal figures show that in California, the estimated number of overdose deaths continued to rise in 2023 compared to 2022, increasing by 4.1%. In Oregon and Washington, the increases were significantly more pronounced.

Drug use can differ from region to region, which determines overdoses and resulting deaths: fentanyl hit the eastern United States before spreading to the west, and drug use Methamphetamine use has generally been more common on the West Coast.

Federal estimates released Wednesday do not specify how many meth-related deaths also involve other drugs, a phenomenon that is drawing increasing attention as Americans mix drugs, knowingly or unknowingly. In Los Angeles County, for example, a recent report indicates that in 2022, nearly half of overdose deaths among homeless people involved both methamphetamine and fentanyl.

Currently, there are no medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat methamphetamine addiction, although some existing medications have shown promising results, as has the offering of incentives such as cards -gifts to get people to avoid stimulants.

Americans eagerly await any sign of hope amid the overdose crisis, but experts warn against declaring victory too soon in response to year-over-year trends in overdose deaths .

For example, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that the last time fatal overdoses declined nationally in 2018, the slowdown coincided with stricter regulations in China on carfentanil, a highly synthetic opioid. powerful. The following year, deaths from drug overdoses increased again.

California Daily Newspapers

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