A record number of Americans died from drug overdoses in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, provisional data show.
Last year, more than 93,300 fatalities occurred, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) revealed on Wednesday.
This represents a nearly 30 percent rise from the roughly 72,100 drug overdose deaths that were recorded in 2019.
The spike was mainly driven by increased use of opioids and specifically fentanyl, the synthetic opioid 100 times stronger than morphine.
The pandemic has created the perfect breeding ground for addiction with many turning to opioids to cope with job losses and the deaths of loved ones to the programs being canceled or replaced with telemedicine for those trying to maintain sobriety
Provisional CDC data show there were 93,331 drug overdose deaths recorded in the U.S. in 2020, a 29.4% jump from 72,151 deaths reported in 2019
For the advisory, the CDC looked at death records received and processed by the NCHS this year.
They looked at deaths from the 12-months ending in December 2019 to the 12-months ending in December 2020.
Results showed that 93,331 drug overdose deaths were recorded in 2020, which is a 29.4 percent jump from the 72,151 deaths reported in 2019.
The team found that the overdose deaths were mainly driven by opioids, which were responsible for 74 percent, or 69,710 fatalities.
The figure is a massive jump of 36 percent from the 50,963 overdose deaths recorded in 2019.
Counties in states such as California and Nevada say much of it is driven by fentanyl, the synthetic opioid 100 times stronger than morphine. Pictured: A woman tends to a luminary during a vigil in remembrance of victims of overdose deaths in Gloucester, Massachusetts, August 31
HOW AMERICA GOT HOOKED ON OPIOIDS
Prescription opioids and illicit drugs have become incredibly pervasive throughout the US, and things are only getting worse.
In the early 2000s, the FDA and CDC started to notice a steady increase in cases of opioid addiction and overdose. In 2013, they issued guidelines to curb addiction.
However, that same year – now regarded as the year the epidemic took hold – a CDC report revealed an unprecedented surge in rates of opioid addiction.
Overdose deaths are now the leading cause of death among young Americans – killing more in a year than were ever killed annually by HIV, gun violence or car crashes.
In 2019, the CDC revealed that nearly 71,000 Americans died from drug overdoses.
This is up from about 59,000 just three years prior, in 2016, and more than double the death rate from a decade ago.
It means that drug overdoses are currently the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old.
The data lays bare the bleak state of America’s opioid addiction crisis fueled by deadly manufactured drugs like fentanyl.
The data showed that overdose deaths from synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, and psychostimulants including methamphetamine rose in 2020.
Overdose deaths from cocaine also increased as did deaths from natural and semi-synthetic opioids like prescription medications.
The overall national opioid prescribing rate has been declining since 2012 and, in 2017, the prescribing rate had fallen to the lowest it had been in more than 10 years.
In fact, the number of opioid prescriptions has decreased by 37 percent between 2014 and 2019, according to the American Medical Association.
However, many people can’t afford prescription painkillers anyway and end up turning to street drugs.
The pattern of drugs involved in overdose deaths has changed in recent years, moving away from heroin and natural opioids to synthetic opioids including fentanyl.
According to the Defense Intelligence Agency, 68 percent of fentanyl and precursors used to make the drug originate in China.
These factory-produced drugs, cheap and easy to make, are sold either directly to the U.S. or via trafficking networks set up in Mexico.
According to the Southern Nevada Health District, Clark County – of which Las Vegas is part – saw 63 deaths involving fentanyl among residents up to August of 2020.
Over the same period in 2020, there were 28 fentanyl deaths, which indicates an increase of 125 percent.
In San Diego, there have been 203 fentanyl-related deaths in the first six months of 2020, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reported.
By comparison, there were 152 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in San Diego County in all of 2019.