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Newly Released Data Estimates Kentucky Saw Second Highest Increase Of Drug Overdose Deaths In The US

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map showing 12 month-ending provisional number of drug overdose deaths.

Kentucky drug overdose deaths increased by nearly 54% in 2020. That’s according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.  

The CDC data estimates Kentucky saw the second highest drug overdose increase in the US in 2020. That’s second only to Vermont, which had the highest estimated increase.

The CDC’s predicted data estimates that more than 93,000 overdose deaths occurred in the U.S. in 2020. It’s the most deaths reported in a 12-month period.

Meghan Steel with the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center said counties with the highest overdose deaths have shifted.

“Eastern Kentucky has actually done a fantastic job of lowering their drug overdose mortality rate in comparison to central Kentucky,” Steel said.

Steel said although overdose deaths increased, she created a map that shows where mortality rates shifted.

“And it's almost like a rotating circle where it’s moving out of eastern Kentucky and it’s much more centered in Central Kentucky,” Steel said. “So all three of the counties with the highest drug overdose mortality rates are all in central and northern Kentucky.” Fatal overdoses were also declining in Appalachian Kentucky prior to the pandemic.

The CDC estimates more than 2,100 people died in Kentucky from overdoses in 2020. That is a 53% increase from 2019.

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