Fentanyl, Suicide Death Rates Climb As Other Opioid-Related Fatalities Drop

Deaths from fentanyl overdoses increased slightly in 2018, as fatality rates for other opioids and drugs went down, according to data recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Suicide death rates also rose.

Deaths from fentanyl — as well as from fentanyl analogs and tramadol — went from 9 individuals per 100,000 in 2017 to 9.9 per 100,000 in 2018, marking a 10% increase.

By contrast, the overdose fatality rate for heroin fell, from 4.9 individuals per 100,000 people dying by overdose in 2016 and 2017 to 4.7 per 100,000 people the next year. Additionally, overdose deaths from natural and semisynthetic opioids — such as hydrocodone and oxycodone — declined from 4.4 people per 100,000 to 3.8 per 100,000 in the same period. Death rates from methadone also saw a small drop, going from one person per 100,000 people in 2016 and 2017 to 0.9 per 100,000 people in 2018.


Overall, drug overdose deaths went down more than 4% from 70,327 in 2017 to 67,367 in 2018, the CDC data shows. Findings released last week by the center also showed that life expectancy increased slightly from 78.6 years in 2017 to 78.7 the following year.

On a less positive note, however, the data indicates that suicide claimed 1.4% more lives in 2018 than in 2017.

Still, the Trump Administration praised the numbers showing the overall drug overdose rate dropped, while also saying their work in combating the nation’s drug epidemic is “far from finished.”


“This news is a real victory, and it should be a source of encouragement for all Americans who have been committed to connecting people struggling with substance abuse to treatment and recovery,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said in a press release announcing the news. “The drop in overdose deaths shows that the President’s new level of focus on the opioid crisis, and the administration’s science- and community-based efforts to combat it, are beginning to make a significant difference.”