The number of people dying of drug overdoses in Orange County has soared to the highest levels in at least a decade.
According to preliminary coroner data, fatal drug overdoses climbed to at least 400 last year, a 6 percent increase from 2014 – and a nearly 63 percent jump compared with 2005, when the number stood at 246.
The latest figures punctuate a problem that has rapidly multiplied inOrange County and the U.S. In the past five years, drug overdoses have killed 1,769 people in the county.
The coroner’s office has cases awaiting toxicology results, so the 400 figure could rise.
More than two-thirds of last year’s cases – 286 – involved opioids, a class of drug that includes heroin and prescription painkillers such as Percocet, OxyContin and Vicodin.
That’s not unusual: A 2014 report from the county Health Care Agency found that from 2011 to 2013, 70 percent of all drug and alcohol overdose deaths investigated by the coroner involved opioids.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the spike in opioid abuse and death a national epidemic, claiming 78 lives daily in the U.S.
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