Overdose deaths down in the United States, a first since 2018 | TV5MONDE

Overdose deaths down in the United States, a first since 2018 | TV5MONDE
Overdose deaths down in the United States, a first since 2018 | TV5MONDE

The number of deaths from drug overdoses fell in 2023 in the United States, for the first time since 2018, American health authorities announced on Wednesday.

Some 107,000 overdose deaths were recorded in the country last year, compared to more than 111,000 in 2022, a drop of 3%, according to provisional figures.

The main culprit in the overdose crisis hitting the United States is currently fentanyl, an extremely powerful and addictive synthetic opioid.

The number of fentanyl-related deaths fell from more than 76,000 in 2022 to just under 75,000 last year, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Many factors probably play a role” in this decline, commented for AFP Joseph Friedman, a researcher specializing in this subject at UCLA University in California. In particular “the intensification of treatments against addiction” and “increased access to naloxone”, an antidote making it possible to resuscitate a victim of an opioid overdose, he estimated.

Another explanation may be “the spread of fentanyl” having now “exhausted all the new places to establish itself”, he estimated.

However, according to CDC data, overdose deaths involving cocaine or stimulants like methamphetamine have increased.

Strong regional disparities are also noted: if a drop in deaths of 15% or more was observed in the states of Nebraska, Kansas and Maine, an increase of at least 27% was on the contrary recorded in the states of Washington, Alaska and Oregon, all located in the west of the country, report authorities.

“Even if the apparent stabilization of the number of deaths compared to past increases is encouraging, there is no indication that the fundamental structural factors of this crisis have changed considerably,” warned Joseph Friedman.

“Continued efforts are needed to encourage people exposed to fentanyl to stabilize with safer opioids, such as methadone or buprenorphine,” which can be obtained by prescription, he said.

In the spring of 2023, the United States Medicines Agency (FDA) for the first time authorized the sale without a prescription of naloxone, in the form of a nasal spray known by its brand name Narcan.

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