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U.S. drug overdose deaths fueled by fentanyl top 100,000 for the first time

Drug overdose deaths in the United States surpassed 100,000 in a 12-month period for the first time.

The United States experienced over 100,000 drug overdose deaths in the past 12 months, for the first time ever. Source - Amait053 (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The United States experienced over 100,000 drug overdose deaths in the past 12 months, for the first time ever. Source - Amait053 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Drug overdose deaths in the United States surpassed 100,000 in a 12-month period for the first time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday (CDC), a troubling milestone amid an already devastating period for the country. 

Between May 2019 and April 2020 there were 78,056 overdose deaths. Over the following year, that figure jumped 29 percent to 100,306. 

The New York Times notes that the 100,000 mark is greater than the number of people lost to car accidents and gunshots. The total is approaching that of diabetes, the seventh biggest killer in America.

Health experts say people with substance use disorders have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic, while law enforcement agencies are increasingly concerned over the rise in the number of fake prescription pills laced with illegal opioids being sold online.

Addressing the drug overdose deaths, President Joe Biden said in a statement Wednesday, “As we continue to make strides to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic, we cannot overlook this epidemic of loss, which has touched families and communities across the country.”

In his statement, Biden also touted a stimulus package that passed in March and delivered $4 billion to expand services for substance abuse and mental health.

12 Month-ending Provisional Counts of Drug Overdose Deaths Source -CDC

In looking closely at the map, Vermont had a nearly 70 percent increase in OD deaths. West Virginia came in at 62 percent and Kentucky, with a 55 percent rise in OD deaths saw the largest rise in overdose deaths from 2019 to 2021.

Large increases were also observed in Louisiana (52 percent), and Tennessee (50 percent). Drug overdose deaths went down in just four states: Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and South Dakota. South Dakota had a nearly 20 percent decrease in overdose deaths, the greatest by far. 

Opioids (including fentanyl) made up more than 75 percent of all deaths. Fatal ODs from meth and cocaine also rose, while heroin deaths decreased. The Washington Post puts it like this: “The people who died – 275 every day – would fill the stadium where the University of Alabama plays football. Together, they equal the population of Roanoke, Va.”

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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