Utah drug overdose deaths are down 10.6 percent—the most significant decrease in the country—in the 12-month period ending February 2017.

In provisional numbers released by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Utah is one of only nine states where overdose deaths decreased. Other states where overdose deaths decreased include Mississippi (-9.9%), Nebraska (-8.7%), California (-3.2%), and Washington (-3.2%). Utah reported 616 overdose deaths, compared to 689 for the 12-month period ending February 2016.

By comparison, drug overdose deaths increased 128.8 percent in the District of Columbia, 63.8 percent in Maryland, 63.0 percent in Delaware, and 52.9 percent in Florida during the same period. In the United States as a whole, overdose deaths increased 20.3 percent. These provisional numbers include drug overdose deaths from all causes, including opioid-related deaths. The data are not considered final—they’re subject to change, according to the CDC’s report.

In the previous year (February 2015 to February 2016), overdose deaths increased in Utah by 13.7 percent, from 606 deaths to 689 deaths.

While the CDC report does not address the question of why deaths increased or decreased, the data suggest something is different in Utah compared to the U.S. as a whole. One possible factor is the effort being made in Utah to educate residents about the dangers of overdoses—from opioids and other drugs—as well as other prevention and treatment programs underway. Utah’s efforts involve collaboration among Intermountain Healthcare and other healthcare providers, the Utah Department of Health, other government and social services agencies, law enforcement, and other groups.

Between 2015 and 2017, Intermountain donated $3 million in support of public awareness campaigns regarding safe use, storage, and disposal of prescription opioids, as well as provider education and support of medication assisted treatment for people with opioid use disorders. In August, we announced a goal to reduce the opioid tablets prescribed per acute pain prescription by 40 percent—which would be a reduction of more than 5 million tablets annually. Our goal seeks to ensure patients receive the number of tablets they actually use while eliminating extra, unneeded tablets that may end up being misused.

The CDC's provisional counts include deaths occurring within the 50 states and the District of Columbia. You can review the complete report here.

Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts

2016-2017

 

State

 

% Change

Deaths

Feb 2016

Deaths

Feb 2017

Utah

-10.6

689

616

Mississippi

-9.9

335

302

Nebraska

-8.7

126

115

California

-3.2

4,745

4,591

Washington

-3.2

1,139

1,103

Alaska

-3.1

128

124

New Mexico

-1.2

485

479

Arkansas

-0.8

379

376

Oregon

-0.6

495

492

U.S.

+20.3

53,835

64,765

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/National Center for Health Statistics (2017, September 11). Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts. Table 1: 12 Month-ending Provisional Counts of Drug Overdose Deaths, Percent Change Over Previous 12-month Period, and Data Quality Metrics. Accessed Sep 20, 2017 at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/vsrr/drug-overdose-data.htm