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Drug overdose deaths are down in the U.S. for the first time since 2018

Front lines of America's fentanyl crisis
On the front lines of America's fentanyl crisis 04:24

Drug overdose deaths decreased last year for the first time since 2018, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The amount of drug deaths from drug overdoses decreased by 3 percentage points between 2022 and 2023. More than 107,000 overdose deaths were recorded during the same time period.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deb Houry called the decrease in overdose deaths "heartening," but the agency noted that the data is provisional and subject to change. Provisional data can underestimate the total amount of overdose deaths, the agency says online.  

Drug overdose deaths are attributed as such by the CDC after investigations into the causes of death. These investigations can be lengthy. The provisional data breaks down the overdose deaths by the drugs involved in them. If a death involved two drugs, it is recorded in the death counts for both drugs, so the death of a person who had both heroin and fentanyl in their system would be tallied as both an overdose death from heroin and from a synthetic opioid other than methadone, which is how fentanyl is categorized. 

Opioid overdose deaths decreased from 84,181 to 81,083 between 2022 and 2023, the CDC said, and there was a small decline in fentanyl deaths. Overdose deaths from semi-synthetic drugs like morphine and codeine decreased from 12,135 to 10,171. However, deaths from psychostimulants like meth and cocaine increased from 63,991 to 66,169 in the same time period. 

A record-breaking number of Americans — nearly 108,000 people — died of drug overdoses in 2022, according to final federal figures released by the CDC in March. Houry said the decrease seen in the provisional data "is a testament to the hard work by all of our partners in this effort and the work being done on the ground as part of a coordinated federal effort on prevention, services, and harm reduction." 

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