For the first time in three decades, deaths from drug overdose look like they're going to fall instead of rise.
Back in 1990, drug overdoses claimed 8,400 lives in the U.S.; and for every year afterward, the number of deaths has risen, especially in recent years, as the epidemic of opioid addiction takes a heavy toll on parts of the country. While the official total for overdose deaths in 2018 hasn't been confirmed yet, provisional data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention suggests that we might finally be in for a change. The CDC's data from Nov. 2017 to Nov. 2018 counted about 69,100 deaths from drug overdose, compared to 72,300 from Nov. 2016 to Nov. 2017.
But this isn't a sign that the worst is over, The Wall Street Journal explained. While health officials are eager to see any evidence that progress is being made in the fight against overdose deaths, "we shouldn't say oh, we've won," said Robert Anderson, a CDC official.
"The opioid crisis is in early remission, yet at high risk of relapse," said Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. But even if this doesn't mean we're out of the worst of the opioid epidemic, these numbers could be a sign that some of our methods for combating overdose deaths are working. In large part, broadened access to naloxone, a drug that can reverse the worse effects of overdose, has been shown to save lives that would otherwise be lost to drug overdose.
The picture is still bleak — overdose deaths are still much higher than "in the peak of the crack-cocaine crisis decades ago," The Wall Street Journal reports. But it's possible that our current methods will help to turn the tide.