HealthDay News — New government data confirm what many have suspected: The pandemic has prompted a record number of drug overdose deaths, with more than 100,000 Americans succumbing to addiction as COVID-19 raged across the country.
That figure is almost 30 percent higher than the previous year, when 78,000 overdose deaths were reported, according to provisional figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
“The 12-month period ending in April 2021 is the first time we’ve seen over 100,000 estimated deaths due to drug overdose,” lead researcher Farida Bhuiya Ahmad, M.P.H., the mortality surveillance lead at the NCHS, told HealthDay. “Drug overdose deaths continued to rise at least through April 2021. So that’s this past spring, and we haven’t seen any indication that the numbers are slowing down.”
Overdose deaths from opioids alone rose to more than 75,600 in the 12 months ending in April, according to the NCHS report. The increase in deaths started in late 2019, but there was a sharp increase in mid-2020 that has continued through April 2021.
Opioids are fueling most of this rise in deaths. “That’s opioids like fentanyl, but then we also see increases nationally, and in some states, of deaths from methamphetamines,” Bhuiya Ahmad noted, adding that with all the attention the opioid epidemic has incurred, it was hoped that opioid use and abuse would have declined. “I think any optimist would hope that the numbers would go down,” Bhuiya Ahmad said. “But so far, we’re seeing that the increase is sustained — it just continues to rise, we haven’t seen it leveling off.”
Deaths have risen in every state except South Dakota, New Hampshire, and New Jersey, the findings showed. The largest increases in opioid deaths were seen in California, Kansas, the mid-Atlantic states, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Annual overdose deaths were up nearly 50 percent in California, 37 percent in Kansas, 56 percent in Louisiana, and 48 percent in Mississippi. Virginia had a nearly 46 percent increase, as did South Carolina, and in West Virginia, deaths rose 62 percent.