The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said drug overdose deaths in the U.S. rose by roughly 2% in 2022 over the year before.
The CDC further noted that those numbers plateaued for most of last year following two large surges during the Covid-19 pandemic. Experts could not conclude whether that meant the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history is finally reaching a peak, or whether the plateau—like others in the recent past—will be followed by yet another surge in drug-related deaths.
“The fact that it does seem to be flattening out, at least at a national level, is encouraging,” said Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University epidemiology professor. “But these numbers are still extraordinarily high. We shouldn’t suggest the crisis is in any way over.”
An estimated 109,680 overdose deaths occurred in the U.S. last year, the CDC said. That was compared to 107,622 in 2021.
The 2% increase was minimal when compared to a 30% increase in 2020 and a 15% increase in 2021 amid the pandemic, when lockdowns and other pandemic-era restrictions isolated people and made treatment harder to access.
Eight states experienced sizable decreases of about 100 or more last year: Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Experts also point to expanded addiction treatments, including Telehealth and the overdose-reversing medication naloxone, for the downward trend.
Further, a stigma over seeking help is waning, according to medical professionals.
The biggest cause of lethal overdoses has for the past several years been lethal fentanyl and related drugs.
In April, the Biden Administration unveiled a new initiative targeting the supply chain for fentanyl and other synthetic drugs. It includes cooperation with international governments, such as Mexico, and strengthening “coordination and information-sharing among U.S. intelligence and domestic law enforcement agencies” that target the trafficking of fentanyl and other illicit drugs.