The U.S. reached a record-high number of drug-overdose deaths in a 12-month period, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC estimated that were 100,306 drug-overdose deaths in the 12 months running through April. In was a sharp rise from the 93,000 drug-overdose deaths in 2020, suggesting the pandemic may have played a role.
Substances such as fentanyl have played a factor due to its highly addictive nature and since it is 100 times more powerful than morphine. Drug dealers mix fentanyl with heroin and other drugs in order to increase the potency of the drugs they are selling.
There was also an increase in overdose deaths related to cocaine and methamphetamine.
Overdose deaths have doubled since 2015 and the overall death count from overdoses is more than gun deaths and car accidents combined. The powerful illicit substances plus the social isolation brought on by the pandemic, along with mental illness such as anxiety and depression has brought the number of overdoses to new tragic heights. Opioid prescriptions have declined as a result of the high amount of overdose deaths, the Washington Post reported.
Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University expert on drug abuse issues, has called the latest figures “devastating” and told the Associated Press that it is a “magnitude of overdose deaths we haven’t seen in this country.”
“These are numbers we have never seen before,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Many of the victims of these overdoses have been younger people as 70% of the overdose deaths were between the ages of 25 and 55, the New York Times reported. Many of the people who are dying are already addicts or have been in recovery prior to relapsing.
Overdose deaths rose dramatically for every racial/ethnic group and age range. Despite whites originally having higher rates of overdoses, Black overdoses have increased by 45%, nearly doubling the overdose rates for whites, according to the Common Wealth Fund.
States such as California, Tennessee, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Kentucky have seen the worst of the overdose epidemic as their numbers have increased by 50%, whereas Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Alaska, Nebraska, and Virginia have seen their numbers jump 40%.
President Biden’s American Rescue Plan has allocated $1.5 billion in preventing and treating those who have substance abuse problems. Another $30 million will be spent on local services for people struggling with addiction as well as syringe exchange programs. Biden says his administration “is committed to doing everything in our power to address addiction and end the overdose epidemic.”