Garrett Greene is taking medication to treat pain and struggles to find effective treatment.
Crystal Vander Wight and Jasper Colt, USA Today

Death from overdose last year declined for the first time in nearly three decades, according to a report this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

still subject to change when the final issue is released later this year, show that overdose death has fallen by 5% in 2018, the first major drop during an addiction epidemic that takes hundreds of thousands of people through a decade. "The latest preliminary data on overdose deaths indicate that America's combined efforts to reduce the disorder and use of opioids are working," said Secretary of Health and Health, Alex Azar, in a statement. "Life is saved and we are beginning to win the fight against this crisis."

While the decline is encouraging, experts say that 68,000 deaths last year from drug overdose remain a major public health problem.

"People die from overdose with opiates, not knowing they have taken opioids"

Opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen. (Photo: Patrick Sison, AP)

"It's great that it is moving in the right direction," said Adam Levental, director of the University of Southern California's Addiction Institute. "It is important for the public and politicians to admit that the drug addiction crisis is unfortunately still alive and good, it just changes."

The prescription of opioid painkillers, long blamed as the root of the crisis, fades as a cause of overdose deaths. , The CDC reported 12,757 deaths from an overdose of prescribed painkillers in 2018, compared with 14,926 deaths in 2017. Four other categories of drugs – methamphetamine and other stimulants, cocaine, heroin and fentanyl – each cause more -fatal overdoses last year than last year, the report said. Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, often sold as a street drug, in 2015 surpassed prescription opioids as the deadliest overdose and is now associated with almost three times more deaths. Nearly 32,000 overdose deaths last year included fentanyl. In 2014, it was detected in less than 6,000 fatal overdoses. Centers for disease control and protection show overdoses of U.S. in connection with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. Centers for Disease Control and Protection show US overdoses due to Fentanyl Synthetic Opioid Growth (Photo: CDC)