NEW YORK - Drug overdose deaths surged in 14 states last year, pushing the nation to a record count, according to a government report released Friday.
Rates went up in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the overall tally last week. On Friday it provided more details, including state numbers.
For the nation, overdose deaths last year surpassed 47,000 - up 7 percent from the previous year. That's the most reported in the nation since at least 1970, according to CDC records. The count includes deaths involving powerful painkillers, sedatives, heroin, cocaine and other legal and illicit drugs.
West Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio had the highest overdose death rates. In West Virginia, the overdose rate was 35.5 per 100,000; the national rate was about 15 per 100,000.
State rates are calculated to provide a more balanced comparison between states given the differences in population size. In sheer numbers, California - the most populous state - had the most overdose deaths last year, with more than 4,500. Ohio was second, with more than 2,700.
The numbers are based on death certificates. Nearly half a million Americans died from drug overdoses from 2000 through 2014, the CDC says.
Drug overdoses - particularly those from prescription opioid painkillers - has become a priority issue for the Atlanta-based CDC. The agency this week released draft guidelines for family doctors, encouraging them to be more careful about prescribing opioids for chronic pain.
By Mike Stobbe - AP/Dec. 18, 2015
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