Accidental opioid overdoses are not only on the rise but are now the most common preventable cause of death in the U.S. for the first time ever, according to a new report.
The latest numbers from the National Safety Council, which analyzed 2017 data from the National Center for Health Statistics, place accidental opioid overdoses ahead of motor vehicle crashes and falls.
Overall, accidental opioid overdoses accounted for more than 43,036 deaths in 2017 ― up from 37,814 deaths in 2016. Motor vehicle crashes had been the top preventable killer, claiming 40,327 lives in 2016. That number slightly decreased in 2017 to 40,231.
The NSC estimated that Americans now have a 1 in 96 chance of dying from an accidental opioid overdose, versus a 1 in 103 chance of dying from a car crash.
An individual’s actual odds of dying “are affected by the activities in which they participate, where they live and drive, and what kind of work they do, among other factors,” the NSC notes.
The latest numbers paint a grim picture for all Americans, said Maureen Vogel, a spokeswoman for the NSC.
“Too many people still believe the opioid crisis is abstract and will not impact them. Many still do not see it as a major threat to them or their family,” Vogel told CNN in an email. “These data show the gravity of the crisis. We have known for some time that opioid overdose is an everyday killer, and these odds illustrate that in a very jarring way.”
The opioids most frequently involved in overdoses and growing at the fastest rate are synthetic opioids. Those include fentanyl, fentanyl analogs and tramadol. Heroin accounted for the second-highest number of overdose deaths. Morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone made up the third-deadliest opioid category, according to the NSC.
“The nation’s opioid crisis is fueling the Council’s grim probabilities, and that crisis is worsening with an influx of illicit fentanyl,” the NSC said in a release.
Preventable deaths ― deaths that aren’t due to natural causes or intentional acts like suicide or homicide ― are up by 5.3 percent since 2016. They trail only heart disease and cancer as the top causes of death in the United States.