More than 93,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Last month, the agency announced that these figures, which are still preliminary, nevertheless represented a 29.4 percent increase over 2019, which also saw a record high with 71,000 overdose deaths.
Synthetic opioids, particularly fentanyl, made up the greatest part of the increase, accounting for about 73 percent of deaths in 2020, up from nearly 71 percent in 2019. Other overdose deaths were attributed to methamphetamine, as well as other illegal drugs.
Many of the users were unaware that the drugs they were taking were laced with fentanyl or carfentanil, cheaper, more addictive, and potentially deadly drugs that have even turned up in marijuana recently, unbeknownst to the users.
Heartbreaking and terrifying
“Every one of those people, somebody loved them,” professor Keith Humphreys, a drug and addiction specialist at Stanford University, told The Washington Post.
“It’s terrifying,” he added. “It’s the biggest increase in overdose deaths in the history of the United States. It’s the worst overdose crisis in the history of the United States, and we’re not making progress. It’s really overwhelming.”
Drug overdose fatalities have been increasing over much of the past 25 years, the paper reported.
No simple answers
Experts agree the solution won’t be easy because it requires a multi-pronged approach to the problem.
“The data speak for themselves, and they are shouting,” Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), said in a statement about the CDC figures.
“We need to address the social determinants of health that put some people at a higher risk of drug use and addiction,” she said.
“We need to educate people that addiction can be treated. We need to provide access to these treatments for everyone who needs them. We need to follow the science. We need radical collaboration across sectors to create transformative and impactful changes.”