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U.S. overdose deaths top 100,000 in one year

Members of the Quick Response Team visit people who have overdosed on drugs in Huntington, W.Va., in March. Associated Press/Photo by David Goldman

U.S. overdose deaths top 100,000 in one year

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an estimate on Wednesday that 100,300 people in the United States died of a drug overdose between May 2020 and April 2021. The number represents an increase of nearly 30 percent from the previous April 2019 to April 2020 period. The death toll rose in all but four states, with Kentucky, Vermont, and West Virginia reporting increases of more than 50 percent. The new estimates place the number of overdose deaths close to diabetes, which is the seventh most common cause of death in the country.

What is driving the increase? Health officials said overdose deaths were an epidemic long before the COVID-19 pandemic started, but months of social isolation hindered treatment efforts. Opioids accounted for 75 percent of overdose deaths. The drug supply has become more dangerous because suppliers lace methamphetamines and cocaine with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration said the agency has seized enough fentanyl to give everyone in the United States a lethal dose just in the past year, and it is still confiscating more.

Dig deeper: Listen to Kim Henderson’s report on Mississippi first responders saving lives from overdoses.

Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a WORLD reporter and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College. She resides in Washington, D.C.


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