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West Virginia sees rise in opioid overdose deaths while nation sees decrease, according to CDC

By Logan Cottrell, The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The results of a comparative report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding opioid overdose deaths from 2022 to 2023 have been released, and they were somewhat encouraging on the national level.

However, the number of recorded opioid overdose deaths in West Virginia for 2023 was 1,382 — a 4% increase, according to provisional data supplied by the CDC.

Dr. Deb Houry, the CDC’s chief medical officer, called the national trend “heartening.”

“Data showing a decrease in drug overdoses over the 12-month period through December 2023 is heartening news for our nation and demonstrates we are making progress to prevent deaths from drug overdoses,” she said.

“The decrease is a testament to the hard work by all of our partners in this effort and the work being done on the ground as part of a coordinated federal effort on prevention, services and harm reduction,” Houry said.

But the mission is still not complete, she said.

“The data shows we still lost over 100,000 people last year, meaning there are still families and friends losing their loved ones to drug overdoses at staggering numbers,” Houry said. “This progress over the last 12 months should make us want to reinvigorate our efforts, knowing that our strategies are making a difference.”

Most of the fatal overdoses in West Virginia involve fentanyl, said Whitney Wetzel, director of communications at the state Department of Human Services.

“Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine,” she said. “Fentanyl is often mixed with other substances. While several substances may be involved, fentanyl is often the causal substance.”

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