BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — New figures from the Centers for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics show a decline in the number of opioid overdose deaths across the country for the first time since 1990.
"The latest provisional data on overdose deaths show that America's united efforts to curb opioid use disorder and addiction are working," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
The complete study can be read on the CDC's website.
WBZ NewsRadio's Jim MacKay spoke with ABC News Correspondent Pete Combs about the drop in deaths, breaking down some of the numbers.
"[Secretary Azar] is saying, basically, he's pointing to preliminary—and I really want to stress the nature of this as being preliminary—numbers from the Centers for Disease Control here in Atlanta that say that opioid overdose deaths have dropped 5.1 percent between 2018 and 2017," Combs said. "That is a significant number. That would certainly seem, at least on the surface, to be beyond the initial margin of error, if you will."
But Combs said success in the fight against the opioid crisis shouldn't simply be measured by deaths alone, because many are still suffering.
"There are still people living in tents, people living under bridges, people very, very much in the grips of this tremendous disease," Combs said. "And there are still people who are becoming addicted to this because they are being prescribed these drugs by their doctors."
Combs also spoke from a personal place about the complicated situation the opioid crisis has created for those who seek to be prescribed the drugs for chronic pain. Combs, who has had opioid prescriptions for five years to deal with chronic pain, said some doctors are hesitant to prescribe any opioids.
"In my case, where I had a lot of pain post-surgery, I had to go back and literally fight with the nurse and argue with her about, look, this really does hurt. I'm not a pill-seeker, I need this medicine. My story is not at all unique, this is happening a lot all over the country."
Listen to the full interview below.
WBZ NewsRadio's Jim MacKay (@JimMacKayOnAir) reports