More than 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, the most ever, new federal statistics show.
The disastrous tally has been pushed to new heights by soaring abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers, a class of drugs known as opioids.
Heroin deaths rose 23 percent in one year to 12,989, slightly higher than the number of gun homicides, according to government data. Deaths from synthetic opioids, including illicit fentanyl, rose 73 percent to 9,580. And prescription painkillers took the highest toll, but posted the smallest increase. Abuse of drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin killed 17,536, an increase of 4 percent.