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Fatal drug overdoses in U.S. soar to 52,000 as heroin deaths increase 20%

More than 52,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2015, a “drastic increase” from the previous year, fueled largely by deaths caused by heroin, fentanyl, and other illicit opioids.

According to new data released Friday by the CDC, heroin deaths increased more than 20 percent from 2014 to 2015, and deaths linked to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl soared by more than 72 percent. The death rates “increased across all age groups 15 and older, in both sexes, and among all races/ethnicities,” the public health institute said when announcing the findings.


Altogether, opioids killed 33,091 people last year across the U.S.; prescription painkillers such as OxyContin were responsible for 12,700 of those deaths, but the rest were caused by heroin and other related drugs.

Some states have been hit harder than others: Synthetic opioid deaths skyrocketed by 135 percent in New York, 125 percent in Connecticut, and 120 percent in Illinois. Eleven states saw heroin death rates increase, including spikes of 57 percent in South Carolina, 46 percent in North Carolina, and 43 percent in Tennessee.

When the CDC released preliminary 2015 data last week, the Washington Post noted a grim milestone: Heroin now kills more people than gun homicides. Less than a decade ago, heroin deaths were outpaced by gun homicides by a rate of more than 5 to 1.

Congress recently devoted $1 billion to combat the opioid epidemic over the next five years, but some public health experts are concerned that changes to the Affordable Care Act under the Trump administration could make it harder for people to get drug treatment.

Here’s the CDC’s full report: