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Good news: New users of opioids down by half

In a dramatic turnabout, the latest figures show that new users of opioids in the nation have dropped by half since President Trump made it one of his administrations top priorities.

The survey, released Friday, shows progress in the fight against the ongoing opioid addiction crisis with fewer people in 2017 using heroin for the first time compared to the previous year. The number of new users of heroin decreased from 170,000 in 2016 to 81,000 in 2017.

Trump made it a central part of his campaign, often bringing up the names of states and cities where it had reached an epidemic level. Creating a new partnership between law-enforcement, health professionals and local government, the administration hopes the dramatic drop can be sustained in an effort to bring down the number of fatal overdoses, experts said.

Fewer Americans are misusing or addicted to prescription opioid painkillers. And more people are getting treatment for heroin and opioid addiction, the survey found.

The Trump administration said the positive trends show government efforts are working.

“Messages are reaching people about the dangers of heroin and the deadly contaminants it often contains on the street,” Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, an administration health official, said in a video presentation released with the figures.

Among the other findings:

—Marijuana use climbed in all age groups except young teenagers, with 2.5 percent of those 26 and older, or 5.3 million adults, reporting they use marijuana daily or almost daily last year. The rise is seen as a result of liberal states pushing legalization of the drug which has made access easier, including transportation across state lines.

—The number of new heroin users in 2017 — 81,000 — was lower than the numbers in most years from 2009 to 2016. It has dropped to numbers of new heroin users not seen since the Bush administration from 2002 through 2008.

Experts said there’s still work to be done before success can be declared.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released preliminary figures that show a leveling off in overdose deaths in late 2017. The drop off seems to have continued into the first few months of 2018 as well.

Health officials, while extremely optimistic, have said it’s too soon to say whether the nation’s drug crisis has peaked. But in an interview with The Associated Press this week, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said several measures of the crisis are improving.

“We are making progress,” he said. “We are seeing a flattening of our deaths from overdose.”