Fentanyl overdose deaths top 100,000 annually for the first time
America’s drug epidemic is the deadliest it has ever been. More than 100,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States during the one year span, ending in April 2021.
That’s a new record with overdose deaths rising 28.5% from the same period a year earlier and nearly doubling over the past five years.
Opioids continue to be the driving cause of drug overdose deaths. Fentanyl, caused nearly two-thirds of all drug overdose deaths in a one year span, ending April 2021, up 49% from the year before. The Covid-19 pandemic and the rise in use of fentanyl have both been key contributors to the rising overdose death toll.
The latest data on drug overdose deaths captures those occurring in May 2020 through April 2021. Covid-19 killed about 509,000 people in that same time.
The rise of fentanyl has made those effects even more deadly. Increasing use of the synthetic drug caught the attention of experts before Covid-19 hit, but the pandemic may have exacerbated the problem.
With international travel limited, synthetic drugs that are easier to manufacture and more concentrated were easier to smuggle across borders. The US government has seized enough fentanyl this year to give every American a lethal dose.
The new federal data shows that overdose deaths from methamphetamine and other psychostimulants also increased by 48% in the year ending in April 2021 compared to the year before. They accounted for more than a quarter of all overdose deaths in the latest year timeframe.
While fentanyl was once more popular on the East Coast and methamphetamine on the West Coast. Deaths from cocaine and prescription pain medication also increased compared with a year earlier, but not as drastically.
As the country reopens and society returns to some pre-pandemic normalcy, experts say people will continue to die from drug overdoses at very high rates if action isn’t taken to significantly improve access to treatment.
Last month, the US Department of Health and Human Services released an overview of the Biden Administration’s plan to combat drug overdoses. It includes measures aimed at addressing opioid prescription practices and removing barriers to treatments, as well as recovery support and federal support for harm reduction strategies.
As of 2016, drug overdoses have killed about as many Americans as car accidents and gun violence combined. Now, drug overdoses cause about twice as many deaths.
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