Drug overdose deaths hit a record high between July and September of last year, according to a National Center for Health Statistics report released Tuesday.
The latest government numbers show that the overdose death rate topped out at 19.9 deaths per 100,000 people in the third quarter of 2016, compared to 16.7 deaths per 100,000 people during the same period in 2015.
President Donald Trump’s commission on opioids has urged him to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency.
“With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks,” the commission wrote in its interim report released last week.
“Your declaration would empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the executive branch even further to deal with this loss of life,” the report continues.
Trump is scheduled to meet with top officials on Tuesday for a “major briefing” on the opioid epidemic, but it remains unclear whether the president will declare a national emergency or address the commission’s public health concerns and treatment recommendations.
The new numbers also come on the heels of a study published Monday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, which analyzed drug mortality rates from death certificates in an effort to more accurately assess opioid and heroin drug fatalities. It found mortality rates that were 24 percent higher for opioid overdoses and 22 percent higher for heroin overdoses than the numbers that had previously been reported.
As it stands, more than 50,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2015, surpassing annual HIV and firearm deaths during the peak years of those epidemics.
“Death rates from opioid overdose continue will continue to rise until we implement a comprehensive strategy to reduce harms and expand treatment for opioid use disorder using effective medications,” Dr. Peter Friedmann, associate dean for research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and chief research officer at the nonprofit Baystate Health, told HuffPost.