U.S. Drug Overdoses Reached Record High amid Pandemic Shutdowns

Cataldo Ambulance medics Timothy Stahl (left) and Derek Travers (right), with the help of a firefighter tend to a 38-year-old man who was found unresponsive after an opioid overdose in the Boston suburb of Malden, Mass., October 19, 2017. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Amid a pandemic that has persisted for nearly a year and a half, reported U.S. drug overdose deaths reached a new high of 96,779 in the 12-month period that concluded in March 2021.

From March 2020 to March 2021, the country experienced a surge of 29.6 percent in drug overdose fatalities, predominantly caused by opioids and secondarily caused by synthetic opioids excluding methadone, according to data published by the CDC. Before the results were released, the agency projected over 99,000 reported drug overdose deaths for this period.

This past July, preliminary data from the CDC revealed that more than 93,000 people in the United States died of drug overdoses in 2020, a spike of 30 percent from 2019, when the CDC reported that 71,000 people died of an overdose.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said then that the statistics were “chilling,” and that the pandemic “created a devastating collision

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