Drug overdose deaths in the U.S. are now higher in cities after years of being more common in rural areas, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Friday.
The CDC says overdose rates for urban areas surpassed rural areas in 2016 and 2017, though not by much.
The CDC found that in 2017, there were 22 overdose deaths out of every 100,000 people in urban areas. In rural areas, there were 20 overdose deaths per 100,000 people.
Overdose death rates for 2018 will be reported later this year, the agency said.
Both urban and rural overdose rates have skyrocketed since 1999, which is when the CDC started analyzing data for its current report.
From 1999 through 2003, drug overdose death rates were higher in urban counties than in rural counties. Rates were similar from 2004 through 2006, then higher in rural counties from 2007 through 2015, the CDC found.
For both urban and rural counties, the rate of drug overdose deaths was highest among people between the ages of 25 and 44.
According to the CDC, the U.S. is in the midst of the deadliest drug epidemic in history. Preliminary agency data released last month showed about 68,500 people died from overdoses in 2018.
The report found that deaths in urban counties were often the result of men who overdosed on heroin, cocaine and synthetic opioids including fentanyl.
Rural counties reported higher deaths among women who overdosed on methamphetamine and prescription opioid pills such as oxycodone.
The CDC defined urban areas as counties with large and small cities and their suburbs. Rural areas were nonsuburban counties with fewer than 50,000 residents.