Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn

The number of opioid prescriptions written in the United States has declined in recent years, according to newly released federal data, but the number of people who have fallen victim to fatal overdoses from prescription painkillers or heroin continues to rise.

The problem is especially acute in small town and rural America, where the unemployment rate remains high and a disproportionate number of residents are on Medicare or Medicaid, according to the data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The rapid growth in opioid prescriptions in the last two decades has coincided with and contributed to a spike in the number of drug overdoses in the United States. And even as prescriptions have slumped, more people are dying: More than 52,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2015, the last full year for which data is available. 

Early estimates suggest the number of overdose deaths was far higher in 2016, and growing still in the early months of 2017. 

Nearly two-thirds of overdose deaths in 2015 involved an opioid, the CDC reported. The agency said about two million Americans are addicted to opioids. 

“It’s important to understand what’s driving this, and there are two drivers, and they’re distinct. One of them is an increase in prescriptions, and that’s the main driver,” Tom Frieden, the former head of CDC, told The Hill in an interview. 


Read more