WASHINGTON (Circa) — More than an estimated 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, according to provisional data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That represents about a 10 percent increase in drug overdose deaths from the previous year.
"When you really get through all the data, you find that fentanyl, or the synthetic opioids, which are hundreds or sometimes thousands of times more powerful than morphine, are really the reason for these spikes in overdose deaths," said Dr. Dan Bober, an addiction medicine physician.
The early data offers a glimpse into the ongoing drug crisis since the Trump administration took measures to intervene. In 2017, President Trump declared the epidemic a "public health emergency" and allocated hundreds of millions of dollars in grant money to all 50 states to help combat the crisis.
In some cases, however, the amount of grant money doesn't necessarily correlate to a decline in drug overdose deaths. In Pennsylvania, the Department of Health and Human Services administered nearly $26 million to the state, according to a report. But the Keystone state still saw about an 8 percent increase in opioid-related deaths, the CDC report suggests. The same could be said for New Jersey, which was given nearly $13 million in 2017, but saw a double-digit increase in opioid overdose deaths the same year.
Some experts speculate that it will take time for the government funds to reverse a decades-long trend.
"The government money is helping and now I really think we're going to see an impact because we're finally starting to get into the infrastructure of the epidemic," Bober explained.
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What appears to be more clear cut is fentanyl's widespread effect on opioid-related deaths. Bober suggests it will still be an issue in years to come, especially as dealers and chemists find ways to contaminate more and more types of drugs with the deadly ingredient.
"I am concerned about, you know, west of the Mississippi, that we may see an uptick in these overdose deaths as the black tar heroin starts to contain more and more fentanyl," Bober said. "This fentanyl is so deadly."