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Smoking Surpasses Injecting as Most Common Method in U.S. Overdose Deaths, CDC Reveals

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Anthony Raphael
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Smoking Surpasses Injecting as Most Common Method in U.S. Overdose Deaths, CDC Reveals

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A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shed new light on drug use trends in the United States, revealing that smoking has now surpassed injecting as the most common method of taking drugs in overdose deaths. The study also underscored the rising prevalence of smoked fentanyl, noting that it is involved in more U.S. overdose deaths than any other drug.

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Increasing Prevalence of Smoked Fentanyl

The CDC study indicated a worrying trend: the increasing use of smoked fentanyl. Although early research suggests that smoking fentanyl may be somewhat less deadly than injecting it, both methods carry a significant risk of overdose. Importantly, the study also pointed out that drug users are increasingly smoking fentanyl as it is not as concentrated as fentanyl in a syringe.

Sharp Rise in Smoking-Related Overdose Deaths

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In terms of numbers, between early 2020 and late 2022, the data from death certificates, toxicology reports, and reports from coroners and medical examiners, reveals a shocking 74% increase in smoking-related overdose deaths. In contrast, there was a 29% decrease in injection-related deaths during the same period. This drastic shift in drug use methods has led to smoking becoming the most common route in the West and Midwest regions of the U.S. It is roughly tied with injecting in the Northeast and South regions.

Limitations and Further Research

While the study provides comprehensive insights into the changing landscape of drug use and overdose deaths, it acknowledges certain limitations in accurately determining the method and cause of an overdose death. This calls for further research that takes into account these limitations and contributes to a more complete understanding of the problem.

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Implications of the Study

The findings of the study carry significant implications for public health and harm reduction services. With the shift from injecting to smoking, especially in the case of potent substances like fentanyl, there's a pressing need to address the overdose risks related to diverse routes of drug use. The focus needs to be on strengthening services to include not just injection but also other non-injection routes, such as smoking.

Conclusion

The soaring rates of smoking-related overdose deaths underscore the urgent need for concerted efforts to tackle this emerging public health crisis. Policymakers, healthcare providers, and the community at large have a critical role to play in addressing this issue. In the meantime, the CDC’s study serves as a stark reminder of the changing face of drug use in the U.S., and the grave risks it poses to individuals and society.

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