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March 22, 2024

CDC: U.S. had record high overdose deaths in 2022, but rate may be leveling off

The U.S. recorded 107,941 drug overdose deaths in 2022, according to a new federal report — a total that marks an all-time record but also shows signs that the country’s overdose rate may finally be leveling off after years of steady increase (Source: “Overdose deaths hit another record but show signs of leveling off,” Stat News, March 21).

The 2022 total marks only a slight increase from the drug death toll of 106,699 the year before, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The flattening of drug death rates could provide a rare glimmer of hope amid the bleak U.S. drug crisis, which has seen overdose rates rise dramatically for the past two decades and especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A large majority of those deaths were driven by the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl. Since emerging in the drug supply in the mid-2010s, fentanyl has increasingly come to dominate the U.S. illicit drug market. Even as fentanyl deaths have skyrocketed, the share of deaths involving other opioids — like heroin, methadone, and prescription painkillers — has decreased.

Despite the promising overall trend, the report still highlighted a number of negative developments: namely, an increase in overdoses involving stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine and a widening of racial disparities in overdose death rates.