New Jersey

Grim Stats: Pennsylvania, New Jersey Outpace Opioid-Fueled Overdose Epidemic Nationally

Overdose fatalities jumped 21.5 percent in the United States from 2015 to 2016, fueled by the continuing rise in opioid-related deaths, according to statistics released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control.

Still, increases in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in recent years have greatly outpaced the CDC's grim findings, according to data from health officials in both states.

In Pennsylvania, fatal drug overdoses jumped from 3,505 in 2015 to 4,884 in 2016, according to the president of the Pennsylvania Coroner's Association. That's a 39 percent increase year over year.

In New Jersey, 2,284 people died of an overdose from July 2016 to June 2017, a nearly 35 percent increase over the previous 12 months.

"Much of the increase is attributed to the proliferation of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl," a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Health Ellen Lovejoy said Thursday.

The deadly scourge in Pennsylvania, which is one of the five worst states for percent increases in overdose deaths, shows no signs of abating, Lycoming County Coroner Charles Kiessling Jr. told NBC10.

He said fatal overdoses will top 5,000 in 2017 in Pennsylvania once final figures are tallied.

"I don't know of any counties that have seen a decrease," Kiessling said.

While the epidemic is worse in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the CDC report found its effects nationally permeated most of society.

"We've learned that drug overdose and opioid-involved deaths continue to worsen and these data underscore the persistent and multi-faceted nature of overdoses," CDC spokeswoman Julie Eschelbach said. "We are seeing increases across age groups, racial/ethnic groups, urbanization level, and numerous states."

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