Drug overdose deaths in the United States increased by nearly 30 percent during the first year of the pandemic. Nearly 97,000 Americans died from overdoses between March 2020 and March 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
All but three states saw a jump in reported overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending in March 2021, with Vermont recording the largest increase at 85 percent. New Hampshire, New Jersey and South Dakota saw their number of overdose deaths fall in that timeframe. The largest decline was seen in South Dakota, at 16 percent.
“It is important to remember that behind these devastating numbers are families, friends and community members who are grieving the loss of loved ones,” said Regina LaBelle, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The CDC data showed that opioids, much of it from China, accounted for the highest number of reported drug overdose deaths in that timeframe. The spike also appears to be driven by a jump in the use of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that has long been blamed for an escalating overdose death rate in the United States. Fentanyl is most often manufactured in Mexico using chemicals supplied from China and mixed with other narcotics to increase potency, as well as pressed into counterfeit pain pills commonly known as “Mexican oxys.”
Last month, the Drug Enforcement Administration warned the public of a significant nationwide surge in potentially lethal counterfeit prescription pills, the first time a nationwide alert has been issued on the matter in six years. The DEA said in its rare public safety alert that more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills had been seized so far in 2021, more than the total seized in the previous two years.
In addition to the one million people who have crossed into the U.S. from Mexico illegally, drug cartels have also smuggled in mind-blowing amounts of drugs. Some are now calling it a national security threat that the Biden administration needs to address.
The newly released figures from the CDC cover the timeframe when lockdowns were implemented across the United States as part of efforts to curb the transmission of COVID-19, A study published in June found that shelter-in-place mandates, or lockdowns, failed to save lives during the pandemic. Although fewer people may have died from COVID-19 because of such orders, deaths came in higher from drug overdoses, murders and unintentional injuries, researchers said.
The increased drug use is stretching local organizations that have seen an increase in the number of homeless and children placed in foster care.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice