Drug Overdose Deaths Hit an All-Time High in 2021, CDC Data Show

There were an estimated 107,622 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2021, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The death rate is the highest on record for overdose fatalities, and it was up 15% from the 2020 rate of 93,655 deaths—a number that was 30% higher than the 2019 rate. The data highlight a surge in overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.Pandemic disruptions—including restricted access to rehabilitation facilities, naloxone (a drug that can reverse symptoms of an opioid overdose), and medication-assisted therapy—may have played a part in the increased death rate, Jules Netherland, director of the department of research and academic engagement at the Drug Policy Alliance, tells SELF. However, the rate was climbing before the pandemic took hold. “Unfortunately overdose deaths were going rapidly up before COVID, but the increase during COVID has certainly escalated,” Netherland says. She adds that communities of color are being hit harder and that strategies need to be implemented quickly to reverse the current trend.Alaska saw the biggest increase in the overdose death rate in 2021, rising 75.3% from the 2020 rate. Other states that saw steep increases include Vermont, South Dakota, Kansas, and Oregon, per the new data. Wyoming saw a 0% change, while overdose deaths in Hawaii went down by 1.81%.Among the 107,622 deaths, 80,816 involved opioids, according to the data. In addition to opioids, overdose deaths from synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl), cocaine, and psychostimulants (like methamphetamine) also increased in 2021 compared to 2020.Drugs contaminated with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s up to 100 times stronger than morphine, per the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), may have contributed to the spike in the overdose death rate, Netherland says. “We do know fentanyl has contaminated a lot of the drug supply and is driving” overdose deaths, she explains. But eliminating fentanyl won’t solve all the crisis and bring the rate back down, Netherland warns. Instead, experts need to focus on harm reduction strategies. “Until we really scale up harm reduction and treatment services, I don’t think we’re going to turn this around,” she explains.Netherland points to a number of different measures that could slow the overdose death rate’s climb, widespread access to naloxone and fentanyl test strips among them. The test strips would reveal if a product has been contaminated with fentanyl, 2 milligrams of which can be lethal, depending on a person’s size. Overdose prevention centers, which have been established in New York City, could also bring down the death rate, Netherland says. These allow people who use drugs to do so in a controlled setting, where trained staff can supervise and assist if they overdose. Additionally, until states decriminalize possessing small amounts of currently illegal drugs—which Oregon did in 2020—people who buy them won’t be able to tell whether their supply has been contaminated with a dangerous substance. “Criminalizing and prohibiting the purchase and sale—it means people aren’t going to know what they’re getting,” Netherland adds.Related:

There were an estimated 107,622 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2021, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The death rate is the highest on record for overdose fatalities, and it was up 15% from the 2020 rate of 93,655 deaths—a number that was 30% higher than the 2019 rate. The data highlight a surge in overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic disruptions—including restricted access to rehabilitation facilities, naloxone (a drug that can reverse symptoms of an opioid overdose), and medication-assisted therapy—may have played a part in the increased death rate, Jules Netherland, director of the department of research and academic engagement at the Drug Policy Alliance, tells SELF. However, the rate was climbing before the pandemic took hold. “Unfortunately overdose deaths were going rapidly up before COVID, but the increase during COVID has certainly escalated,” Netherland says. She adds that communities of color are being hit harder and that strategies need to be implemented quickly to reverse the current trend.

Alaska saw the biggest increase in the overdose death rate in 2021, rising 75.3% from the 2020 rate. Other states that saw steep increases include Vermont, South Dakota, Kansas, and Oregon, per the new data. Wyoming saw a 0% change, while overdose deaths in Hawaii went down by 1.81%.

Among the 107,622 deaths, 80,816 involved opioids, according to the data. In addition to opioids, overdose deaths from synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl), cocaine, and psychostimulants (like methamphetamine) also increased in 2021 compared to 2020.

Drugs contaminated with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s up to 100 times stronger than morphine, per the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), may have contributed to the spike in the overdose death rate, Netherland says. “We do know fentanyl has contaminated a lot of the drug supply and is driving” overdose deaths, she explains. But eliminating fentanyl won’t solve all the crisis and bring the rate back down, Netherland warns. Instead, experts need to focus on harm reduction strategies. “Until we really scale up harm reduction and treatment services, I don’t think we’re going to turn this around,” she explains.

Netherland points to a number of different measures that could slow the overdose death rate’s climb, widespread access to naloxone and fentanyl test strips among them. The test strips would reveal if a product has been contaminated with fentanyl, 2 milligrams of which can be lethal, depending on a person’s size. Overdose prevention centers, which have been established in New York City, could also bring down the death rate, Netherland says. These allow people who use drugs to do so in a controlled setting, where trained staff can supervise and assist if they overdose. 

Additionally, until states decriminalize possessing small amounts of currently illegal drugs—which Oregon did in 2020—people who buy them won’t be able to tell whether their supply has been contaminated with a dangerous substance. “Criminalizing and prohibiting the purchase and sale—it means people aren’t going to know what they’re getting,” Netherland adds.

Related:

This article was originally published on this site

PHP Code Snippets Powered By : XYZScripts.com