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Alert: US Drug Overdose Death Almost Tripled in Just 15 Years

Feb 26, 2017 04:25 AM EST

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the rate of death due to drug overdose in the U.S. has nearly tripled in just 15 years.

The CDC report, released Feb. 24, showed that the rate of age-adjusted drug overdose death has increased by over 250 percent, from 6.1 per 100,000 in 1999 to 16.3 per 100,000 in 2015.The increase in drug overdose death rate was observed in all age groups, but the greatest percentage increase was among adults aged 55 to 64, from 4.2 per 100,000 in 1999 to 21.8 per 100,000 in 2015.

The rate of drug overdose death increased on average by 10 percent per year from 1999 to 2006, by 3 percent per year from 2006 to 2013, and by 9 percent per year from 2013 to 2015.

The steep increase of drug overdose deaths in the past 15 years is attributed to the rise of street-value heroin and other opioids.

"Because heroin and synthetic opioids are cheaper than prescription opioids and more widely available in certain areas hit hard by the epidemic, a singular focus on reducing accessibility to prescription opioids misses the mark," said Lindsey Vuolo, an associate director at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, in a report from CBS News.

In 2015 alone, heroin and other opioids -- such as oxycodone and hydrocodone -- accounted for nearly half of the overdose deaths. The strict tracking of prescription opioids caused a decline in overdose death rate by 5 percent, from 29 percent in 2010 to 24 percent in 2015.

The decline was because abusers of prescription opioids switched to a cheaper and more available alternative, heroin. In 2015, heroin accounted for 25 percent of all drug overdose deaths, up from 8 percent in 2010. Overdose deaths due to synthetic opioids also experience a sharp increase, rising to 18 percent in 2015 from 8 percent in 2010.

The four states with the highest age-adjusted drug overdose death in 2015 were West Virginia with 41.5 per 100,000, New Hampshire with 34.3 per 100,000, Kentucky with 29.9 per 100,000 and Ohio with 29.9 per 100,000.

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