More than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, setting another tragic record in the nation’s escalating overdose epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Wednesday.
The provisional 2021 total translates to approximately one U.S. overdose death every 5 minutes. It marked a 15% increase from the past record, set the year before. The CDC reviews death certificates and then makes an calculate to explain delayed and incomplete reporting.
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, called the the latest numbers “truly staggering.”
U.S. overdose deaths have risen most years for more than two decades. The increase began in the 1990s with overdoses involving opioid painkillers, followed by groups of deaths led by other opioids like heroin and — most recently — illicit fentanyl.
Last year, overdoses involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids surpassed 71,000, up 23% from the year before. There also was a 23% increase in deaths involving cocaine and a 34% increase in deaths involving meth and other stimulants.
Overdose deaths are often credited to more than one drug. Some people take multiple drugs and inexpensive fentanyl has been increasingly cut into other drugs, often without the buyers’ knowledge, officials say.
“The net effect is that we have many more people, including those who use drugs sometimes and already adolescents, exposed to these potent substances that can cause someone to overdose already with a comparatively small exposure,” Volkow said in a statement.
Experts say the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem as lockdowns and other restrictions secluded those with drug addictions and made treatment harder to get.
Overdose death trends are geographically rough. Alaska saw a 75% increase in 2021 — the largest jump of any state. In Hawaii, overdose deaths fell by 2%.
Ninety-one people in the U.S. die every day from opioid-related overdoses, but there’s a tool that can reverse the effects of an overdose that more and more law enforcement agencies and paramedics are now carrying with them as part of their standing operating protocol. It’s called Narcan, and here is what you need to know about what it is, how it works and how to use it.
The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives sustain from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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