Drug overdoses are killing more people in the US now than ever before.
Nearly half a million Americans—499,446 to be precise—died from drug overdoses between 2000 and 2014, data released Dec. 18 by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows. In 2014 alone, drug overdoses killed more than 47,000 people—a 7% increase from the previous year—and the most of any year on the CDC’s record.
Heroin overdoses in particular have climbed dramatically—more than tripling in the past four years. The age-adjusted rate of deaths caused by opioids, including heroin and opioid pain relievers, rose 14% in 2014, setting a new record.
“The increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose is alarming,” CDC director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “[It’s] devastating American families and communities.”
Over the past year, obituaries spotlighting victims of drug addiction have put faces to these statistics.
This month, Rolling Stone published a letter by the ex-wife of American musician Scott Weiland, who overdosed on drugs, titled “Scott Weiland’s Family: ‘Don’t Glorify This Tragedy.’” USA Today recently highlighted parents of an 18-year-old girl who died after a heroin overdose because they used her obituary to raise awareness about opioid addiction.
Yet, the epidemic persists—particularly in the states of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Utah, Kentucky and New Mexico, which had the highest rates of overdose deaths in the US last year.