July 18, 2019 -- For the first time in three decades, drug overdose deaths in the United States fell last year, preliminary federal government data suggests.
Provisional numbers released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show nearly 68,000 drug overdose deaths in 2018, and the agency expects that even if the final confirmed number is higher, it will be below 69,000, the Associated Press reported.
Overdose deaths have risen each year since 1990, reaching a peak of 70,000 in 2017.
The reason for the decline in 2018 was fewer deaths from heroin and prescription painkillers, but there were continuing increases in overdose deaths involving fentanyl, cocaine and psychostimulants like methamphetamines, the AP reported.
While a decline or stabilization in overdose deaths would be welcomed, the U.S. drug overdose death rate remains about seven times higher than a generation ago.
"We're still in a pretty sad situation that we need to address," Rebecca Haffajee, a University of Michigan researcher, told the AP.
The current drug overdose crisis in the U.S. has been the deadliest in the nation's history, with overdose deaths increasing by 5,000 or more a year from 2014 to 2017.