Drug Overdose Deaths Hit New High During Pandemic

(Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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A record number of Americans died of overdoses on drugs in the time spanning from April 2020 to April 2021, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) said Wednesday.

More than 100,000 Americans died of overdoses during that time period, compared to 78,000 during the prior year, according to the provisional numbers from the NCHS. It’s the first time the total number of overdose deaths has surpassed 100,000, and the tally has doubled since 2015.

Many of the additional deaths were driven by fentanyl use, and more recent numbers released by NCHS suggest the increase has slowed since April. The increase correlates with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent restrictions on activity, in the United States. Experts say that not only did pandemic restrictions lead to increased feelings of isolation and depression in many Americans, but routine forms of medical care were also often delayed during COVID-19 surges.

Roughly seven in ten of the overdose deaths were in men ages 25 to 54. Some of the largest increases were concentrated in the south and the rust belt, with Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Kentucky all seeing increases of more than 50% in deaths. (RELATED: State Supreme Court Lets Major Drug Company Off The Hook For $465 Million Opioid Fine)

President Joe Biden addressed the numbers in a statement Wednesday, calling the surge of death an “epidemic of loss, which has touched families and communities across the country.”

“As we grieve those we’ve lost and honor their memories, my Administration is committed to doing everything in our power to address addiction and end the overdose epidemic,” his statement continued. “To all those families who have mourned a loved one and to all those people who are facing addiction or are in recovery: you are in our hearts, and you are not alone. Together, we will turn the tide on this epidemic.”