A grim tally soars: More than 50,000 overdose deaths in US

FILE - This Tuesday, May 19, 2015 file photo shows a firearm and 154 pounds of heroin worth at least $50 million displayed during a Drug Enforcement Administration news conference in New York. According to government data released Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, drug overdose deaths in the U.S. surpassed 50,000 in 2015, the highest mark in at least 15 years. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

NEW YORK (AP) — Health officials say more than 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, the most ever.

The disastrous tally has been pushed to new heights by soaring abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers, a class of drugs known as opioids.

The new numbers were part of the annual tally of deaths and death rates released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall, overdose deaths rose 11 percent last year, to 52,404. By comparison, the number of people who died in car crashes was 37,757.

Heroin deaths rose 23 percent, to 12,989. Deaths from synthetic opioids, including illicit fentanyl, rose 73 percent to 9,580. And prescription painkillers killed 17,536, an increase of 4 percent.