Drug overdose deaths skyrocketed in 2016 — and traditional opioid painkillers weren’t the cause

The federal government just put out new statistics for drug overdose deaths in 2016 — and they are very, very grim.

The preliminary figures from the National Center for Health Statistics suggest that there were more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016. And in a shocking — but not quite surprising — reveal, synthetic opioids like fentanyl overtook both heroin and prescription painkillers in terms of overdose deaths.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, traditional opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin and Percocet, were involved in about 14,400 overdose deaths in 2016, and heroin was involved in more than 15,400. Non-methadone synthetic opioids like fentanyl, meanwhile, were linked to more than 20,100 overdose deaths. Remaining overdose deaths involved other drugs, such as cocaine (which also increased).

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