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CDC Reports Record Number of Drug Overdoses During Pandemic Driven By Fentanyl

CDC Reports Record Number of Drug Overdoses During Pandemic Driven By Fentanyl

America’s drug epidemic only got worse during the COVID19 pandemic, an unsurprising yet sad fact proven by new provisional data published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More than 100,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States during the 12-month period ending April 2021, a new record high according to the CDC data. Overdose deaths have jumped 28.5% from the same period a year earlier and nearly doubled over the past five years. Opioids continue to be the driving cause of drug overdose deaths. Synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, caused nearly two-thirds (64%) of all drug overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending April 2021, up 49% from the year before, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found.


The Covid-19 pandemic and the rise in use of fentanyl have both been key contributors to the rising overdose death toll, experts say. Covid-19 killed about 509,000 people by comparison in that same timeframe, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The increased use of the synthetic drug caught the attention of experts before Covid-19 hit, but they believe pandemic may have exacerbated the problem. With international travel limited, synthetics that are easier to manufacture and more concentrated were likely more efficient, according to the report.


The new federal data shows that overdose deaths from methamphetamine and other psychostimulants also increased significantly, up 48% in the year ending April 2021 compared to the year before. They accounted for more than a quarter of all overdose deaths in the latest 12-month period.

Last month, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) 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. On Wednesday, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy released a model law, providing states with a template to pass their own legislation to improve access to naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses.

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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.

The US government has seized enough fentanyl this year to give every American a lethal dose, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram said Wednesday at a White House press briefing, calling the overdose epidemic in the US “a national crisis” that “knows no geographical boundaries, and it continues to get worse.”


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