August 15, 2018
Drug overdoses killed at least 71,500 people in the United States in the past 12 months, and increase of more than 10 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to provisional counts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
New Jersey saw the third-highest jump in the nation in drug overdose deaths over the past 12 months, spiking more than 21 percent. From July 2016 to June 2017, the CDC projected there were 2,219 overdose deaths in New Jersey, with 2,687 from July 2017 to June 2018. Projections indicate that the only states with a higher spike, by percentage, were North Carolina (22.5 percent) and Nebraska (33.3 percent).
The CDC provides provisional counts based on current mortality data in the National Vital Statistics System. Provisional counts are often incomplete and causes of death may be pending investigation resulting in an underestimate relative to final counts, the health agency says.
Projections indicated that the number of drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania rose by just over eight percent, from 5,101 to 5,515, over the same 12-month period. Fifteen states had a higher spike than Pennsylvania.
The majority of overdose deaths reported in the data were a result of heroin, prescription painkillers, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which has played an outsized role in the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia.
The number of overdose deaths involving heroin, methadone, and natural or semi-synthetic opioids actually decreased between May and September 2017, according to the CDC's estimates, while the number of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, cocaine, and psychostimulants with abuse potential increased over the same time period.
In July, New Jersey Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez authored a bill that calls for education in schools on how to recognize signs of overdose and the dangers of addiction, and how to administer Narcan.
Philadelphia saw a 34-percent increase in opioid overdose deaths from 2016 to 2017.