According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 100,300 Americans died of drug overdoses between May 2020 and April 2021, a nearly 30 percent uptick in fatalities from the previous year. The news arrives several months after the CDC previously reported 93,000 overdose deaths in 2020, the then-highest number recorded in a calendar year.
In a statement released on Wednesday discussing the tragic milestone, President Joe Biden said his administration “cannot overlook this epidemic of loss, which has touched families and communities across the country.”
“We are strengthening prevention, promoting harm reduction, expanding treatment, and supporting people in recovery, as well as reducing the supply of harmful substances in our communities,” Biden said. “And we won’t let up. 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.”
The CDC’s data shows fentanyl caused nearly two-thirds of all overdose deaths in the period ending April 2021. The dangerously powerful opioid, which was developed to treat intense pain from ailments like cancer but has increasingly been sold illicitly and mixed with other drugs, has recently surpassed heroin as the main drug driving the nation’s overdose crisis.
“What we’re seeing are the effects of these patterns of crisis and the appearance of more dangerous drugs at much lower prices,” Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told CNN. “In a crisis of this magnitude, those already taking drugs may take higher amounts and those in recovery may relapse. It’s a phenomenon we’ve seen and perhaps could have predicted.”
If you are experiencing mental health struggles, please reach out for help. In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.