The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects that 100,000 Americans died of drug overdose between May 2020 and April 2021 — a nearly 30% increase over the previous year.
While not an official count, the CDC says it can confirm 98,000 deaths so far during the period and estimates the total number will likely be around 100,300 after causes of death are made official. It can take months to investigate and finalize drug fatalities.
Experts say the increased availability of the deadly opioids, particularly fentanyl, is a major driver, accounting for 64% of overdose deaths.
Another factor is the COVID-19 pandemic which made it hard for drug users to get treatment or support.
“What we’re seeing are the effects of these patterns of crisis and the appearance of more dangerous drugs at much lower prices,” Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told CNN. “In a crisis of this magnitude, those already taking drugs may take higher amounts and those in recovery may relapse. It’s a phenomenon we’ve seen and perhaps could have predicted.”
In a statement, President Joe Biden called the number a “tragic milestone,” and said his administration “is committed to doing everything in our power to address addiction and end the overdose epidemic.”
Overdose deaths are now more common than deaths from car crashes, guns and the flu. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S., killing 660,000 in 2019.
Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press.