Doctors in the United States have reported the deaths of more than 3,000 people since the start of the year, according to a new report.
The tally is almost four times higher than the number of deaths reported in 2015, and about one-third higher than in 2016.
The new data, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows that about half of all people who have died from opioid overdose since January 1, 2017, were using the drug in the first year of its availability, up from about 37 percent in 2015.
The opioid deaths have surpassed deaths from alcohol and tobacco, and more than half of the deaths were among people age 20 to 24.
A report from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) released Wednesday shows that the number one reason doctors use opioid painkillers for chronic pain, and one of the top three reasons doctors use the drug, is that it lowers their costs.
The ASAM study found that the average cost per opioid prescription was about $7,400 in 2017.
The drug’s average price per prescription increased from $2,800 in 2016 to $3,800 last year.
Dr. Mark Gersh, president of the American Pain Society, said the report was “heartening” but added, “Our nation’s opioid addiction crisis has been going on for years and is just getting worse.
The number of overdose deaths continues to grow.
In 2017 alone, opioid-related deaths were at a record high of about 3,900.
We know that opioid abuse and addiction is a serious public health problem that needs urgent attention.”
Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a statement that the data “demonstrates that we have a serious opioid crisis that is continuing to widen and that we need to do everything in our power to end this crisis and save lives.”
He said the U.S. has been “well-documented” for its lack of regulation and oversight of the opioid market, and he urged states and communities to take steps to curb the abuse of opioids.