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US drug overdose deaths decreased in 2023 for the first time in five years

·2 mins

After a surge during the Covid-19 pandemic, preliminary data suggests that drug overdose deaths in the United States decreased in 2023. About 107,500 people died from a drug overdose that year, approximately 3,500 fewer than 2022. This decrease marks the first since 2018 but is significantly smaller than the previous surges. Overdose deaths rose by 30% between 2019 and 2020 and by 15% between 2020 and 2021. Despite the decline, overdose deaths in 2023 were almost twice as high as five years ago. Synthetic opioids, particularly fentanyl, remained the primary driver of overdose deaths. Although there were fewer fentanyl-related deaths in 2023 compared to 2022, the threat remains significant. The use of illicit fentanyl continues to increase, and law enforcement seizures of illicit fentanyl have surged in recent years. The number of deaths related to psychostimulants and cocaine also increased in 2023. The disparities in overdose deaths are notable, with some Western states experiencing significant increases while others saw a decrease. Efforts to address the opioid epidemic include expanded access to treatments, harm reduction programs, and reduced opioid prescribing. The use of funds from opioid settlements has been instrumental in overdose prevention efforts. While recent surveys show a decline in drug use among teens, overdose deaths among this age group have been rising. It is crucial to continue educating young people about the risks and harms of substance use.