Opioid-Related Deaths in Pa., New Jersey Outpacing National Average

The CDC says the two states are among the hardest hit by the epidemic.

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are among the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, which continues to grow nationwide.

From 2015 to 2016, fatal overdoses increased by 21.5 percent in the United States, NBC10 reports. During that same span, Pennsylvania saw a 39 percent jump in opioid-related overdose deaths (3,505 in 2015 to 4,884 in 2016). Final figures have not yet been tallied for 2017, although state health officials have predicted that number will climb to over 5,000 deaths.

“We’ve learned that drug overdose and opioid-involved deaths continue to worsen, and these data underscore the persistent and multi-faceted nature of overdoses,” CDC spokeswoman Julie Eschelbach said. “We are seeing increases across age groups, racial/ethnic groups, urbanization level, and numerous states.”

In New Jersey, 2,284 people died of an overdose from July 2016 to June 2017 — a nearly 35 percent increase from the year prior. New Jersey Department of Health spokeswoman Ellen Lovejoy blames the surge largely on the rise in use of fentanyl, a powerful (and deadly) synthetic opioid.

City officials say roughly 1,200 people died of drug overdoses in Philadelphia last year.