The number of overdoses is still rising, according to recent data 

Following the news that Narcan will soon be available over-the-counter in US pharmacies, new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 2023 is set to have even higher levels of drug overdoses, with deaths reaching record levels. 

The latest CDC estimates show that 111,000 people have died from drug overdoses between April 2022 and April 2023. The previous record was set in March 2022, but there has been a significant increase in the last year, although not as steep as during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The figures from April show that there were around 1,000 more deaths in 2023 than in the previous year, with 111,355 fatalities compared with 110,394 in 2022. 

Between 2019 and 2020, there was a 30% rise in the number of overdose deaths and another 15% increase between 2020 and 2021. Certain parts of the country are more affected than others, with Western states seeing the biggest difference in numbers overall. 

Nearly 70% of overdoses involved synthetic opioids, Psychostimulants were involved in about a third of cases, and cocaine was a factor in about a quarter of the fatalities. 

The FDA recently approved the first over-the-counter naloxone, which will be available in stores in the coming weeks. Naloxone is used to reverse opioid overdose, and many health experts believe that making it more accessible could help to reduce the number of deaths. 

Other evidence-based treatments for opioid addiction, like methadone and buprenorphine, could also play a role in reducing the high fatality rates and in supporting long-term recovery.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health said: “I was expecting that overdose deaths would go down after the big jump during the Covid pandemic, as we resume our everyday life. 

So to me, it is very concerning that these numbers remain so elevated. Fentanyl is everywhere. It’s not just disguised as heroin, but it’s also actually present in cocaine and methamphetamine.”

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