The number of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. appears to have fallen for the first time in nearly three decades.
According to provisional data released Wednesday from the CDC, there were just under 68,000 reported drug overdose deaths in 2018. Compare that to the more than 70,000 overdose deaths in 2017. That translates to a reduction of approximately 4%. Although the decline is modest, it marks the first time overdose deaths haven't jumped annually since 1990.
The improvement was mainly attributed to a drop in deaths from prescription opioids and heroin. Some experts say this is due to doctors prescribing fewer opioids, as well as better access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.
Unfortunately, overdose deaths involving fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine still continue to rise.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar praised the news, saying the new data shows "that America's united efforts to curb opioid use disorder and addiction are working."
To be clear, the data for 2018 is still incomplete, and the CDC predicts the numbers will likely be slightly higher when the data is finalized next year.