Drug-overdose deaths may be declining in the U.S. for the first time in decades, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday.
While the total number of fatalities by drug overdose in 2018 is still being counted, provisional data from the CDC predict the total to be around 69,100 for the 12-month period ending in November, down from nearly 72,300 deaths for the year before.
If the trend holds through December, annual drug deaths will have fallen for the first time since 1990, when about 8,400 people were killed by overdoses, according to the CDC.
One of the main reasons for the decrease may be the expanded use of the overdose-reversal drug Narcan, which can reduce fatalities. Public health officials say they're happy that the direction of the numbers is decreasing, but note there is still a long way to go.
The death counts are based on death records received by the National Center for Health Statistics.
U.S. overdose deaths linked to opioids like fentanyl increased more than 45% from 2016 to 2017, according to the CDC.
There were more than 702,000 deaths from drug overdoses between 1999 and 2017, 10% of which occurred in 2017, according to the CDC.