An alarming number of deaths due to drug overdoses is being highlighted by a recent federal study.
Overall, the rate of fatal overdoses from all drugs has increased more than 2.5 times since 1999, rising from 6.1 deaths per 100,000 people then to 16.3 deaths in 2015, according to the new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Heroin accounted for one-quarter of overdose deaths in 2015 - triple the rate in 2010, said report author Dr. Holly Hedegaard, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. As of 2015, that number was up to to more than 16.
Drug overdose deaths increased from 1999 to 2015 in all age groups, but adults aged 45 to 54 had the highest death rate - about 30 fatalities for every 100,000 people.
But some researchers predict a slowdown in drug overdoses, helped by enhanced prescription drug monitoring by employers and law enforcement agencies.
The age-adjusted rate of overdose-related deaths among non-Hispanic white persons increased by a rate of nearly 3.5 from 1999 to 2015 (21.1 deaths per 100,000), the NCHS reported.
Overdoses increased in all age groups. While overdose death rates increased for all age groups, the greatest increase was in adults aged 55-64.
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The state with the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in 2015 was West Virginia, with a rate of 41 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by New Hampshire, with a rate of 34 deaths per 100,000 people, and Kentucky and OH, both of which had about 30 overdose deaths per 100,000 people.
The National Center for Health Statistics said Friday the massive increase in heroin and general opioid abuse in the USA since 2010 is driven by lower drug prices and ever higher potency.
Pennsylvania's toll of 26.3 overdose deaths per 100,000 people was the sixth highest rate in the nation. "Heroin is part of America's larger drug abuse problem".
Meanwhile, the percentage share of prescription drugs oxycodone and hydrocodone deaths went down from 29 percent to 24 percent, and methadone-involved deaths decreased from 12 percent to 6 percent.
Dr. Corey Slovis, chairman of department of emergency medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and medical director of the National Fire Department and National Airport, said the current drug epidemic is "the worst that I've ever seen it", according to ABC.
But the success of those efforts prompted prescription drug addicts to switch to heroin, which is cheaper and more available on the street, Salsitz and Vuolo said.