The U.S. set a morbid new record for drug overdose deaths, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday, with the synthetic opioid fentanyl accounting for nearly two thirds of the fatalities during a year that included the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to CDC figures, 100,306 people are believed to have died of a drug overdose during the 12-month period ending in April 2021.
This would mark the first time the U.S. has ever recorded more than 100,000 drug-related deaths over a 12-month period, with more than 75,000 of the deaths due to opioids, according to the CDC.
Vermont led the way in the spike in deaths, with a rise of nearly 70% in April 2021 compared to April 2020, followed by West Virginia (62%) and Kentucky (55%).
Among opioid deaths, the vast majority are due to use of the extremely potent, lab-made opioid fentanyl, which accounted for 64,178 deaths over 12 months.
The number of total drug overdose deaths has more than doubled from 2014, while fentanyl overdoses are essentially increasing exponentially. Before 2014, fewer than 3,000 people in the U.S. typically died from fentanyl overdoses per year.
Studies have consistently shown a troubling rise in drug use and overdoses throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, with health experts citing increased stress and grief as major contributing factors leading to drug abuse. Drug use has soared across the nation, but is hitting some regions harder than others, like Appalachia and New England. Only four states—New Jersey, Delaware, New Hampshire and South Dakota—had a decline in deaths.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D) announced Tuesday she hopes for the city to open a center next year where people can use drugs while in the presence of medical professionals, in the hope of reducing overdose deaths. However, such a site would be illegal under federal law.
100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 12 months during the pandemic (The Washington Post)