For the first time in U.S. history, a leading cause of deaths — vehicle crashes — has been surpassed in likelihood by opioid overdoses, according to a new report on preventable deaths from the National Safety Council.
Americans now have a 1 in 96 chance of dying from an opioid overdose, according to the council's analysis of 2017 data on accidental death. The probability of dying in a motor vehicle crash is 1 in 103.
"The nation's opioid crisis is fueling the Council's grim probabilities, and that crisis is worsening with an influx of illicit fentanyl," the council said in a statement released Monday.
Fentanyl is now the drug most often responsible for drug overdose deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in December. And that may only be a partial view of the problem: Opioid-related overdoses also have been undercounted by as much as 35 percent, according to a study published last year in the journal Addiction.
The council has recommended tackling the epidemic by increasing pain management training for opioid prescribers, making the potentially lifesaving drug naloxone more widely available and expanding access to addiction treatment.