According to estimates, around 100,000 Americans have died due to drug overdose in one year. This milestone has never been seen before, and health officials claim that this is connected to the COVID-19 pandemic and a more dangerous supply of drugs.
In over 20 years, overdose deaths have seen a rise, and this surge has become accelerated in the last two years. Per new data published on Wednesday, the figure jumped by almost 30% in the latest year.
Experts believe the growing prevalence of the drug fentanyl among the illicit drug supply as well as the coronavirus pandemic that left many drug users isolated and unable to find help or treatment, have become the top drivers of this surge.
An expert on drug abuse issues from Columbia University, Katherine Keyes, described the figure as “devastating.” She said “It’s a magnitude of overdose death that we haven’t seen in this country.”
The number of drug overdoses has surpassed car crash deaths, gun-related deaths, and even deaths from diseases like the flu and pneumonia. The total number is creeping closer to that of diabetes, which is the U.S.’s top 7 cause of death.
Based on the latest available death certificate data, the CDC estimated that 100,300 Americans have died after overdosing on drugs in the period between May 2020 and April 2021. However, this is not the official count. The finalization of probes into drug fatalities may take months to complete, so the CDC only made an estimate based on the 98,000 reports that it has received.
Previously, the agency reported about 93,000 overdose deaths in 2020, which is the highest figure recorded in a calendar year. According to the CDC’s chief of mortality statistics, Robert Anderson, the 2021 tally will likely go beyond 100,000.
The new figures show that many deaths involved fentanyl, a deadly opioid that surpassed heroin five years ago as the type of drug involved in the most number of overdose deaths. Dealers have also mixed this drug with other types, which is said to be another reason for the rising death toll from methamphetamines and cocaine.
At the moment, the CDC has yet to calculate the racial and ethnic breakdowns of the number.
However, it did find that the death toll went up in every U.S. state apart from Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and South Dakota compared with the same timeframe a year before. The States that saw the highest increases were Kentucky (55%), West Virginia (62%), and Vermont (70%).