Changes in Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths by Opioid Type and Presence of Benzodiazepines, Cocaine, and Methamphetamine - 25 States, July-December 2017 to January-June 2018.MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019 Aug 30; 68(34):737-744.MM
From 2013 to 2017, the number of opioid-involved overdose deaths (opioid deaths) in the United States increased 90%, from 25,052 to 47,600.* This increase was primarily driven by substantial increases in deaths involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF) or fentanyl analogs† mixed with heroin, sold as heroin, or pressed into counterfeit prescription pills (1-3). Methamphetamine-involved and cocaine-involved deaths that co-involved opioids also substantially increased from 2016 to 2017 (4). Provisional 2018§ estimates of the number of opioid deaths suggest a small decrease from 2017. Investigating the extent to which decreases occurred broadly or were limited to a subset of opioid types (e.g., prescription opioids versus IMF) and drug combinations (e.g., IMF co-involving cocaine) can assist in targeting of intervention efforts. This report describes opioid deaths during January-June 2018 and changes from July-December 2017 in 25¶ of 32 states and the District of Columbia participating in CDC's State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS).** Opioid deaths were analyzed by involvement (opioid determined by medical examiner or coroner to contribute to overdose death) of prescription or illicit opioids,†† as well as by the presence (detection of the drug in decedent) of co-occurring nonopioid drugs (cocaine, methamphetamine, and benzodiazepines). Three key findings emerged regarding changes in opioid deaths from July-December 2017 to January-June 2018. First, overall opioid deaths decreased 4.6%. Second, decreases occurred in prescription opioid deaths without co-involved illicit opioids and deaths involving non-IMF illicit synthetic opioids (fentanyl analogs and U-series drugs) (5). Third, IMF deaths, especially those with multiple illicit opioids and common nonopioids, increased. Consequently, IMF was involved in approximately two-thirds of opioid deaths during January-June 2018. Notably, during January-June 2018, 62.6% of all opioid deaths co-occurred with at least one common nonopioid drug. To maintain and accelerate reductions in opioid deaths, efforts to prevent IMF-involved deaths and address polysubstance misuse with opioids must be enhanced. Key interventions include broadening outreach to groups at high risk for IMF or fentanyl analog exposure and overdose. Improving linkage to and engagement in risk-reduction services and evidence-based treatment for persons with opioid and other substance use disorders with attention to polysubstance use or misuse is also needed.