Drug overdose deaths top 100,000 a year for the first time, driven by fentanyl

Drug overdose deaths are already America’s other epidemic.

Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images

America’s drug epidemic is the deadliest ever, according to new interim data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States during the 12-month period ending in April 2021.

That’s a new record, with overdose deaths rising 28.5% over the same period last year and nearly doubling in the past five years, according to CNN.

Opioids continue to be the leading cause of drug overdose deaths. Synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl, caused nearly two-thirds (64%) of all drug overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending in April 2021, up 49% from the previous year, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found. .

President Joe Biden on Wednesday lamented new data showing drug overdose deaths in the United States surpassed 100,000 annually for the first time, saying that “we cannot ignore this epidemic of losses, which has affected families and communities across the country ”.

Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services released an overview of the Biden administration’s plan to combat drug overdoses. It includes measures to address opioid prescribing practices and remove barriers to treatment, as well as recovery support and federal support for harm reduction strategies.

Keys to the increase in drug deaths

The Covid-19 pandemic and the rise in fentanyl use have been key factors in the rise in the number of overdose deaths, experts say.

The latest interim data on drug overdose deaths captures those that occurred between May 2020 and April 2021.

Some 509,000 people died from Covid-19 in that same time period, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The US government has seized enough fentanyl this year to give every American a lethal dose, the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration said Wednesday, Anne Milgram, at a press conference at the White House, calling the overdose epidemic “a national crisis” that “knows no geographic borders and continues to worsen.”

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

Deaths from cocaine and prescription painkillers also increased compared to the previous year, but not as dramatically.

Biden administration officials reiterated Wednesday that these overdoses are being driven in large part by fentanyl and methamphetamine, and that these drugs are being mass-produced by Mexican drug cartels that source chemicals for the manufacture of drugs in China.