Decline in opioid deaths is tied to growing use of overdose-reversing drug, CDC says

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Prescriptions of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone are soaring, and experts say that could be a reason overdose deaths have stopped rising for the first time in nearly three decades.

The number of naloxone prescriptions dispensed by U.S. retail pharmacies doubled from 2017 to last year, rising from 271,000 to 557,000, health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

The United States is in the midst of the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in its history. About 68,000 people died of overdoses last year, according to preliminary government statistics reported last month. The previous year, there were more than 70,000 such deaths.

“One could only hope that this extraordinary increase in prescribing of naloxone is contributing to that stabilization or even decline of the crisis,” said Katherine Keyes, a drug abuse expert at Columbia University.

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