US Drug Overdose Deaths Top 100,000 for the First Time

U.S. deaths attributed to drug overdoses topped 100,000 last year for the first time, the CDC reported Wednesday.

The CDC said there were an estimated 107,622 drug overdose deaths in 2021, a 15% increase over the previous record of 93,655 set in 2020. Drug overdose deaths rose 30% from 2019 to 2020.

Deaths from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, rose to 71,238 in 2021 from 57,834 in 2020. Deaths from methamphetamine increased to 32,856 in 2021 from 24,576 in 2020. Cocaine deaths rose to 24,538 in 2021 from 19,927 in 2020.

Overdose deaths went up 75.3% in Alaska in 2021, the biggest percentage increase in the nation. Other states with high percentage increases were Kansas with 42.86%, South Dakota with 35.14%, Vermont with 34.41%, and Oregon with 33.63%. In Hawaii, deaths declined 1.8% from 2020.

The CDC called the numbers estimates because there’s usually a lag between a reported overdose and confirmation of the death to the National Vital Statistics System. 

Experts said the increase in deaths could be attributed to the pandemic interrupting drug treatments and the spread of inexpensive fentanyl that is cut into other drugs, sometimes without the buyers’ knowledge, PBS reported.

“The net effect is that we have many more people, including those who use drugs occasionally and even adolescents, exposed to these potent substances that can cause someone to overdose even with a relatively small exposure,” said Nora Volkov, head of the National Institute On Drug Abuse, according to PBS.

Sources:

CDC: “U.S. Overdose Deaths In 2021 Increased Half as Much as in 2020 – But Are Still Up 15%.” “Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts.”

PBS: “CDC says more than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, setting ‘staggering’ record.”

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