WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Drug overdose deaths are falling for the first time in three decades, the Centers for Disease Control says.
New data from the CDC shows about 3,500 fewer Americans died from drug overdoses in 2018 than they did in 2017 – a five percent drop. While the decline is good news, the number of 2018 deaths – 68,500 – is still staggering.
“We can’t take our foot off the accelerator, we have to go as hard as we can,” said Jim Carroll, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. “But we have to at least recognize we’re in the right direction.”
Carroll attributes the drop in deaths to education, drug interdiction and treatment.
“Those three efforts are finally showing results in that more Americans are being saved,” he said.
He says one strategy that seems to be paying off is letting local relief agencies decide how to spend their federal dollars.
“We give them the money, they tell us how they’re going to spend it, what tools they’re going to use to reach out to kids 18 and under, and we let them do it,” Carroll said.
Florida was among the most successful states. The number of overdose deaths in the state dropped more than 9 percent.
“That’s positive news but one death is too many,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said. “We’ve got to take it seriously that all drug abuse is a problem.”
“It took us years to get here and it’s going to take us, sadly, a few years to get out of it,” Carroll added. “But we’re doing all the right things.”
While the numbers show that opioid deaths and abuse are down, other drugs like meth and cocaine continue to be a problem.