NEW YORK (AP) – More than 107,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, setting another tragic record in the escalation of the overdose epidemic in the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated on Wednesday.
The conditional outcome for 2021 is about one death from an overdose in the U.S. every 5 minutes. This is 15% more than the previous record set a year earlier. The CDC reviews death certificates and then makes an assessment based on delays and incomplete reporting.
Dr Nora Volkov, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, called the latest figures “truly staggering”.
Deaths from overdoses in the U.S. have been rising for most of the years for more than two decades. The rise began in the 1990s with an overdose of opioid painkillers, followed by a wave of deaths caused by other opioids such as heroin and – most recently – banned fentanyl.
Last year, the number of overdoses of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids exceeded 71,000, up 23% from a year earlier. Also, the number of deaths from cocaine increased by 23% and the number of deaths related to metamethanol and other stimulants by 34%.
Death from overdose is often attributed to more than one drug. Some people are taking multiple medications, and inexpensive fentanyl is increasingly being converted to other medications, often without the knowledge of buyers, officials say.
“The net effect is that we have a lot more people, including those who use drugs from time to time, and even teenagers, exposed to these potent substances that can cause an overdose, even with relatively little exposure,” said Volkov. in the statement.
Experts say the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem as blockades and other restrictions have isolated those suffering from drug addiction and complicated treatment.
Trends in deaths from overdose are geographically uneven. In 2021, Alaska grew by 75% – the biggest jump among all states. In Hawaii, mortality from overdose fell by 2%.
The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Department of Science Education of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.
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