Thursday, November 18, 2021

A record 100,000-plus Americans died from drug overdoses in first year of the pandemic; fentanyl fueled the increase

Percent change in predicted drug overdose deaths from April 2020 to April 2021
CDC map; click the image to enlarge it or click here for the interactive version. Click here for county-level data.

"The U.S. drug epidemic reached another terrible milestone Wednesday when the government announced that more than 100,000 people had died of overdoses between April 2020 and April 2021. It is the first time that drug-related deaths have reached six figures in any 12-month period," Dan Keating and Lenny Bernstein report for The Washington Post. "The new data shows there are now more overdose deaths from the illegal synthetic opioid fentanyl than there were overdose deaths from all drugs in 2016."

The provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a death toll nearly 29 percent higher than those recorded in the same period a year earlier. "The financial, social, mental health, housing and other difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic are widely blamed for much of the increase," Keating and Bernstein report. Click here for county-level data.

The Biden administration is trying to combat the crisis with a focus on harm-reduction provisions, including "trying to increase distribution of the overdose antidote naloxone and fentanyl test strips to users, to keep them alive while the government expands prevention and treatment programs," Keating and Bernstein report. "But administration drug czar Rahul Gupta conceded that naloxone distribution is uneven across the country, depending on rules in different states. He offered a model law, suggesting some states could improve access to the drug by adopting it." The administration wants Congress to allocate $11 billion in the 2022 budget for anti-drug programs.

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