Drug overdose deaths jumped a whopping 54 percent – to 63,632 – in the United States from 2011 to 2016, and opioids, benzodiazepines (benzos), and stimulants were the drugs most often to blame, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in the wake of the opioid epidemic.
The opioid oxycodone, known by the brand name OxyContin, was the most cited drug on death certificates in 2011. But the illegal opioid heroin took the lead for the subsequent years.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 21 to 29 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, and between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder. About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.
Deaths related to the potent opioid fentanyl or one of its analogs have skyrocketed in recent years as well, doubling year-over-year since 2013. Nearly a third of all overdose deaths involved fentanyl, the report shows.
Aside from oxycodone and fentanyl, the top 10 drugs most mentioned on drug overdose death certificates also included the opioids methadone, morphine and hydrocodone; the stimulant cocaine; the benzos alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium); and the stimulant methamphetamine.
“While the ranking changed from year to year, the top 10 drugs involved in overdose deaths remained consistent throughout the six-year period,” said researcher Dr. Holly Hedegaard. “This report identifies patterns in the specific drugs most frequently involved in drug overdose deaths … and highlights the importance of complete and accurate reporting in the literal text on death certificates.”
National Institute on Drug Abuse