NEW YORK (NEWSnet/AP) — The number of fatal overdoses declined in 2023, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Agency officials data could change after additional analysis.

Experts reacted cautiously. One described the decline as relatively small, and said it should be viewed as part of a leveling than a decrease. Another noted that the previous year a decrease occurred,2018, drug deaths climbed in the years that followed.

Any decline is encouraging, said Brandon Marshall, a Brown University researcher who studies overdose trends. “But I think it’s certainly premature to celebrate or to draw any large-scale conclusions about where we may be headed long-term with this crisis.”

It’s too soon to know what spurred the decline, Marshall and other experts said. Explanations could include a shift in drug supply, expansion of overdose prevention and addiction treatment.

Dr. Deb Houry, CDC's chief medical officer, calls the dip “heartening news” and praised initiatives to reduce the tally, but she noted “there are still families and friends losing their loved ones to drug overdoses at staggering numbers.”

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