Drug overdose deaths hit the highest level ever recorded in the US last year, with an estimated 200 people dying per day, according to a report by the DEA. Most of that was the result of a record number of opioid-related deaths. Preliminary figures show more than 72,000 people died in 2017 from drug overdoses across the country, per the AP. The DEA's National Drug Threat Assessment, released Friday, shows that heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids continue to be the highest drug threat in the nation. Preliminary data shows 49,060 people died from opioid-related OD deaths, a rise from the reported 42,249 opioid overdose deaths in 2016. Fentanyl and other related opioids, which tend to be cheaper and more potent than heroin, remain one of the biggest concerns for federal drug agents.
But federal officials are also concerned that methamphetamine and cocaine are being seen at much higher levels in areas that haven't historically been hot spots for those drugs. The DEA is also worried people are exploiting pot legalization to traffic cannabis into the illicit market or to states that don't have medicinal or recreational-use marijuana laws, the report notes. About a week ago, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said overdose deaths, while still slowly rising, were beginning to level off, citing figures from late last year and early this year. But even if a slowdown in overdose deaths is underway, the nation is still dealing with the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in its history. (A sad opioid-related obituary.)