Overdose Deaths Top 100,000 Annually for the First Time
New data released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that despite ongoing efforts, the opioid epidemic has reached its deadliest-ever levels. In the twelve-month period between April 2020 and April 2021, over 100,000 people in the US died of a drug-related overdose.
Staggering Numbers Tell the Story
This is a substantial increase on figures reported between April 2019 and April 2020—a 28.5 percent increase, in fact. The data recorded and reported includes how:
- Overdose deaths in North Dakota increased by 36.9%
- The number of overdose-related deaths in West Virginia rose by 62.2%
- Overdose-related fatalities in Vermont increased by 69.9%
It was not all bad news, although the bad news has completely overshadowed any of the good. Overdose-related fatalities did decline in a few states, with South Dakota providing the best figures—a 19.9 percent drop.
The main driving factor behind countless drug-related overdoses is, of course, opioids. Synthetic opioids—with fentanyl being the most prevalent—accounted for 64 percent of all drug-related overdoses during that twelve-month period between April 2020 and 2021.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is relatively cheap to manufacture. It is 10 times stronger than heroin, 100 times stronger than morphine, and is commonly used as a bulking agent. People often take fentanyl without even knowing it and overdoses are common as a result.
“The numbers are staggering. We really know this is being driven by illegal Fentanyl,” said Dr Michael Baca-Atlas, an addiction consultant working at the UNC WakeBrook Recovery Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The COVID-19 pandemic has helped to increase the number of opioid-related overdoses. With limitations placed on overseas travel, synthetics have become more attractive for drug cartels as they are easier to manufacture and smuggle across land borders.
Opioids are not the only narcotics that are contributing to the rise in narcotic-related deaths. Such fatalities from methamphetamine and other psychostimulants also increased by almost half in the same period, accounting for almost one quarter of opioid-related fatalities.
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