Overdose deaths on pace to reach record high for all jurisdictions

Overdose deaths in D.C. jumped 16 percent between 2009 and 2011 and on pace to hit a record high for all jurisdictions in the United States, according to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures released Thursday.

The 2010-2011 National Coroners’ Report also showed the highest number of deaths from unintentional drug overdoses in Texas, North Carolina, Alabama, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, according to numbers that averaged the death records of 43 localities that annually notify the CDC. The data “will help us identify the highest rates of overdose deaths in America,” said the report’s lead author Dr. Michele Hlavsa. “We want to figure out who are the people most at risk in every locality.”

The figures were gathered by participating coroners using the National Death Index. They reveal patterns of increased use of prescription opiates and heroin as well as emerging methods of overdose use, such as fentanyl injections and single-dose injections. They also show that in 2010, the largest number of deaths occurred among older white women between the ages of 25 and 54, with women taking the largest share of all opioid analgesics. More women have died of overdoses from prescription opioid analgesics than from all other opioid analgesics combined.

The report notes a “dramatic increase” in opiate-related overdose deaths. Between 2010 and 2011, those deaths rose from 2,230 to 2,751; the total number of deaths in 2009 was 2,138, according to the 2011 National Coroners’ Report. The CDC estimates that a total of approximately 21,000 opioid-related overdoses have occurred in the United States between 2001 and 2011. Last year, Washington state had the highest number of overdose deaths at 616, followed by New Hampshire (445), Maryland (306), Vermont (208), Kentucky (199), and West Virginia (180).

Along with D.C., the report also found that though there was a 16 percent rise in all places in 2010-2011, there was no statistical change in the number of deaths in D.C. as one might expect given the increase in deaths throughout the United States. The report’s authors estimate that, as of 2011, there were on average around 1,164 overdose deaths in Washington, compared to 1,060 deaths in 2009.

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