Renewed calls for overdose prevention sites following string of Toronto deaths

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Fatal drug overdoses killed more Americans than HIV, auto crashes or guns in 2017, claiming 72,000 lives, according to a preliminary estimation from the CDC.

In addition to the three New England states, overdose deaths fell in Wyoming (minus 33 percent), Utah (minus 12 percent), Oklahoma (minus 9 percent), Montana (minus 8 percent), South Dakota (minus 8 percent), Hawaii (minus 5 percent), Kansas (minus 2 percent), MS (minus 2 percent), New Mexico (minus 2 percent) and North Dakota (minus 1 percent).

Deaths involving cocaine also went up significantly, but deaths from heroin, prescription opioid pills and methadone fell a year ago, the data show. Because it's cheap and relatively easy to make, it's often mixed with other drugs like heroin and cocaine. Once again the highest rates were seen in West Virginia, with 58.7 overdose deaths for every 100,000 residents.

"The most striking patterns at the national level are the recent increases in the numbers of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids (excluding methadone)", Lauren Rossen, co-author of the report and a statistician at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, wrote in an email.

The primary reason for the increase was a continued uptick in deaths involving synthetic opioids, a category that includes the medical painkiller fentanyl.

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Last year, 64,000 died of drug overdoses, with 42,000 deaths related to opioids - including prescription pain pills, heroin and fentanyl. As some investigations can take longer than others, the CDC adjusts its estimate based on the number of deaths still under investigation.

Overall in the United States, fatal drug overdoses increased by 6.6 percent from 2016 to 2017. Now, deaths are more widespread and the toll differs by state.

While the Department of Health and Human Services has declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, skeptics have said few solutions have actually come out of the White House or Congress.

Meantime, Toronto Mayor John Tory pointed to such sites as one of the ways "all three governments" are working on addressing the opioid epidemic.

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