Drug overdose deaths are believed to have fallen last year for the first time since 1990, the WSJ reports.
- Provisional data predicts "there were nearly 69,100 drug deaths in the 12-month period ending last November, down from almost 72,300 predicted deaths for 12 months ending November 2017."
- "If the trend holds through December, annual drug deaths will fall for the first time since 1990, when overdoses killed about 8,400 people."
Why it matters: That would be a strong and promising sign that the current addiction epidemic — fueled by prescription opioids, heroin and illegal fentanyl — has at least stopped getting worse, Axios' Sam Baker notes.
Between the lines: This progress is tenuous, and one year will not make up for the 30-year rise in overdose deaths.
- While life-saving drugs to reverse the immediate effects of an overdose have become much more widely available, access to longer-term addiction treatment is still wanting.
- One other grim explanation, the Journal notes, "is that some of the most vulnerable people have already been killed."
Go deeper: Deaths by suicide, drugs and alcohol reached an all-time high in 2017