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Smoking Surpasses Injecting as Leading Method in US Overdose Deaths: A Deep Dive into CDC's Recent Study

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Mason Walker
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Smoking Surpasses Injecting as Leading Method in US Overdose Deaths: A Deep Dive into CDC's Recent Study

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In a significant shift, a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that smoking has surpassed injecting as the most common method of drug consumption in U.S. overdose deaths. The alarming trend places illicit fentanyl, a potent painkiller, at the forefront of America's ongoing overdose crisis.

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The Rise of Smoking as a Drug Consumption Method

The study observes a stark rise in overdose deaths related to smoking fentanyl. Between early 2020 and late 2022, the percentage of these deaths involving evidence of smoking skyrocketed by 74%. In the same period, deaths with evidence of injection fell by 29%, marking a clear shift in drug consumption patterns. The data, sourced from 27 states and the District of Columbia, also notes an increase in deaths involving snorting, though not as pronounced as those related to smoking.

According to the findings, smoking was the most common route of drug use in the Midwest and the West, while it was on par with injecting in the South and the Northeast.

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Fentanyl: A Primary Driver of the Overdose Epidemic

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid known for its potency, emerges as a major player in the U.S. overdose crisis in the CDC's study. Illicit fentanyl is notoriously involved in more U.S. overdose deaths than any other drug. The study underscores the growing trend of smoking fentanyl, which has now overtaken injecting as the most common method of consumption.

Interestingly, early research suggests that smoking fentanyl may be less deadly than injecting it. However, it's crucial to remember that both routes carry a substantial overdose risk. Furthermore, the study indicates that nearly 23% of the deaths occurred after smoking, 16% after injections, and another 16% after snorting, highlighting the diverse methods of drug consumption.

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Addressing the Overdose Crisis: Looking Ahead

As the study suggests, drug overdose deaths in the U.S. saw a slight increase in 2022 after two significant jumps during the pandemic. Preliminary data for the first nine months of 2023 indicates a similar upward trend. More than 109,000 drug overdose deaths reportedly occurred in 2022, with synthetic opioids other than methadone, primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl, being involved in nearly 70% of these cases.

Addressing this crisis calls for a strengthening of public health and harm reduction services. These services need to focus on overdose risks related to diverse routes of drug use, including smoking and other noninjection methods. It's clear that tackling the overdose epidemic requires a multi-faceted approach that considers the changing dynamics of drug use.

Despite its valuable insights, the study acknowledges its limitations in accurately determining the method of drug-taking. Factors such as a lack of a witness and the difficulty in identifying the drug consumption method could potentially influence the accuracy of the reported data.

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