Overdose deaths in the US exceed 100,000 in one year and outnumber traffic and gun victims


The drug abuse epidemic in the United States has set a new record, with more than 100,000 Americans dead from overdoses in one year, according to preliminary data presented by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) on Wednesday (17) .

The total of 100,306 was computed between April 2020 and April 2021 and represents a 28.6% increase over the same period last year, when 78,000 Americans were victims of substance abuse. In constant increase for two decades, this figure has doubled from 2015 until now.

That number is still tentative because investigations into drug-related deaths can take months, but the figure presented by the CDC this Wednesday adds up to 98,000 death reports filed so far.

“It’s time to face the fact that the crisis is getting worse. We need to put all our hands to work,” said Health Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Rahul Gupta, head of the White House’s Office of Drug Control Policy, said the number of victims was “unacceptable”. “An overdose is a call for help,” he said. “For many people, this request is unanswerable. It requires a whole set of government responses and evidence-based strategies.”

A historical record, the total number of overdose victims was greater than the sum of firearm and traffic deaths. The data show that most (about 70%) are men aged between 25 and 54 years.

The increase in deaths was boosted by synthetic opioids, especially by illegally manufactured fentanyl, a drug 100 times more powerful than morphine and which is usually used in combination with other substances to enhance its effects.

Anne Milgram, head of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), a narcotics law enforcement agency, said the agency has seized more and more fentanyl. “This year alone, the DEA has seized enough fentanyl to provide every American citizen with a lethal dose,” he said, according to the American radio network NPR.

The total number of deaths from the use of stimulants, such as methamphetamine and cocaine, and from natural or semi-synthetic opioids, also increased.

According to The New York Times, the biggest increases in overdose victims from year to year were in the states of California, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and Kentucky. In the states of New Hampshire, New Jersey and South Dakota, the death toll fell.

Experts link the increase in overdose deaths to the Covid pandemic, with difficulty in accessing treatment and an increase in mental health problems.

“We’re seeing a lot of people who take a long time to get help and seem to be getting sicker,” Joseph Lee of the Hazelden Betty Ford addiction treatment foundation told the New York Times. According to him, the number was influenced by the loss of community and social support, in addition to the closing of schools.

The Associated Press, Katherine Keyes of Columbia University called the figure “devastating.” “It’s a magnitude of overdose that we’ve never seen in this country.”

In a statement following the announcement of the number, Biden said that “while we continue to make strides towards defeating the Covid-19 pandemic, we cannot ignore this epidemic of losses affecting families across the country.”

The US government has introduced a $1.5 billion plan for substance abuse prevention and treatment and $30 million to fund local services for people with substance abuse problems. The Biden administration also announced that it plans to improve access to naloxone, a drug capable of containing an overdose.


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