The scourge of drug fatalities only got worse last year as over 107,000 Americans died of overdoses, a 15% jump in just one year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the increase follows an even sharper rise of 30% from 2019 to 2020. Last year’s record number means that one American died roughly every five minutes from a drug overdose; that’s nearly 50% more than in 2019.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl were involved in 71,238 of the fatalities. And while some will see the overall number as a “slowdown,” most experts are astonished at the recent spike in overdose deaths.
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, describes the 2021 figure as “truly staggering.” She says that overdose death rates have climbed for decades and were increasing at unprecedented rates even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts charge that treatment for addiction was substandard prior to the lockdowns. However, sweeping restrictions and quarantines cut off abusers and addicts from assistance and heightened the issue.
A dramatic shift in the past several years has also increased the number of drug overdose deaths. Volkow explains that while fatalities were once centered on prescription drug abuse and heroin, synthetic opioids already dominated the market before the pandemic.
This shift led to more widespread exposure to these cheap-to-produce, highly profitable and extremely dangerous drugs. Throw in that even the producers cannot be certain of the potency of the fake pills they produce, and a national tragedy is created.
The risk now, experts warn, is in people taking just one pill that before would not have been as dangerous. That pill may be contaminated, or “spiked” with fentanyl or another highly-potent synthetic opioid, and death may result. This is an issue that appears to never go away.
An alarming recent study shows the number of U.S. adolescents dying of drug overdoses increased in 2020 for the first time in over a decade. The one year total almost doubled from 2019, and it just kept rising last year. Once again, fentanyl is largely to blame.
The combination of greed and utter disregard for human life among producers of these synthetic opioids is staggering to behold.