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Drug overdose deaths rise significantly in past 5 years

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HARTFORD — Drug overdose deaths have increased by 33 percent in the past five years across the country, with some states seeing jumps of nearly 200 percent.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 states saw increases in overdose deaths resulting from the abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers, a class of drugs known as opioids. New Hampshire saw a 191 percent increase while Connecticut, North Dakota, Massachusetts and Maine had death rates jump by over 100 percent.

Last year, more than 52,000 people died from drug overdoses, with almost two-thirds involving prescription or illegal opioids. The CDC report also included death certificate data for opioid overdoses in 28 states, finding that 16 saw a jump in deaths from synthetic opioids including illicit fentanyl.

New York (135.7 percent) and Connecticut (125.9 percent) were the hardest hit.

Deaths from synthetic opioids, including illicit fentanyl, rose 73 percent, to 9,580. And prescription painkillers took the highest toll but posted the smallest increase. Abuse of drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin killed 17,536, an increase of 4 percent.

In comparison, the number of people who died in car crashes was 37,757, an increase of 12 percent. Gun deaths, including homicides and suicides, totaled 36,252, up 7 percent.

Heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers are the primary drivers of addiction in recent years.

“Too many Americans are feeling the devastation of the opioid crisis either from misuse of prescription opioids or use of illicit opioids,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the CDC. “Urgent action is needed to help health care providers treat pain safely and treat opioid use disorder effectively, support law enforcement strategies to reduce the availability of illicit opiates, and support states to develop and implement programs that can save lives.”

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