July 14, 2021

In the News: Drug overdose deaths soared to a record 93,000 last year

The Washington Post, July 14, 2021

Deaths from drug overdoses soared to more than 93,000 last year, a staggering record that reflects the coronavirus pandemic’s toll on efforts to quell the crisis and the continued spread of the synthetic opioid fentanyl in the illegal narcotic supply, the government reported Wednesday.

The death toll jumped by more than 21,000, or nearly 30 percent, from 2019, according to provisional data released by the National Center for Health Statistics, eclipsing the record set that year.

  • Opioids, primarily illegal fentanyl, continued to drive the death toll, as they have for years. Overdose deaths involving opioids reached 69,710 in 2020, up from 50,963 in 2019, according to the data. Deaths from methamphetamine and cocaine also rose.
  • Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in an interview that fentanyl has so thoroughly infiltrated the illegal drug supply that 70 percent of cocaine overdose deaths and 50 percent of methamphetamine overdose deaths also involved fentanyl
  • In many cases, she said, users are unaware that their drugs are laced with the powerful painkiller, which can halt breathing even if a minute amount is ingested. In others, users knowingly take multiple drugs. “Most of the deaths are from multiple drugs,” she said.

Learn more:

Drug overdose deaths soared to a record 93,000 last year, The Washington Post, July 14, 2021

Drug overdose deaths in 2020 hit highest number ever recorded, CDC data shows, CNN, July 14, 2021

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