With the opioid epidemic still on the rise, a tragic milestone translates to one death from drug abuse every five minutes in the US.
More than 107,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, setting another tragic record in the country’s growing overdose epidemic, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated on Wednesday.
The provisional 2021 total marked a 15 percent increase from the previous record, set the year before. The CDC reviews death certificates and then estimates to account for late and incomplete reporting.
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, called the latest figures “really staggering.”
The White House issued a statement calling the accelerating rate of overdose deaths “unacceptable” and promoting its recently announced national drug control strategy. It calls for connecting more people to treatment, disrupting the drug trade, and expanding access to naloxone, a drug that reverses overdoses.
It is unacceptable that we are losing a life to an overdose every five minutes. That’s why, @POTUSThe strategy of focuses on defeating the opioid epidemic by going after its drivers: untreated addiction and drug trafficking.
My statement on today’s overdose data: https://t.co/64xh2anKfN
— Rahul Gupta (@DrGupta46) May 11, 2022
Overdose deaths in the US have been increasing most years for more than 20 years. The rise began in the 1990s with opioid painkiller overdoses, followed by waves of deaths led by other opioids such as heroin and, more recently, illicit fentanyl.
Last year, fentanyl overdose and other synthetic opioids topped 71,000, up 23 percent from the previous year. There was also a 23 percent increase in cocaine-related deaths and a 34 percent increase in deaths related to methamphetamine and other stimulants.
Overdose deaths are often attributed to more than one drug. Some people take multiple drugs, and inexpensive fentanyl has been increasingly reduced to other drugs, often without the knowledge of buyers, authorities said.
“The net effect is that we have many more people, including occasional drug users and even teenagers, exposed to these powerful substances that can cause overdose with even a relatively small exposure,” Volkow said in a statement.
The experts said the covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem as lockdowns and other restrictions isolated people with drug addictions and made it difficult to access treatment.
Overdose death trends are geographically uneven. Alaska saw a 75 percent increase in 2021, the largest jump of any state. In Hawaii, overdose deaths dropped by 2 percent.