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U.S. overdose deaths hit record high


Deb Walker visits the grave in Chester, Vt., of her daughter who died of a fatal overdose in March 2021. Associated Press/Photo by Lisa Rathke, file

U.S. overdose deaths hit record high

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 107,000 Americans died from overdosing on drugs in 2021 — or about one every five minutes. Those record numbers, which consider death certificates and then take into account likely delayed or incomplete reporting, represent a 15 percent increase from the year before and follow an upward trajectory that has continued almost every year since the 1990s.

Why are overdoses increasing? While the overdose epidemic began with prescription opioids, increased usage of drugs such as heroin quickly followed. Deaths associated with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids increased by 23 percent last year. Additionally, some experts point to isolation and limited services during the COVID-19 pandemic as significant contributors.

Dig deeper: Read Emily Belz’s report about how parents who lost children to overdoses are finding ways to help other young people break free from addiction.


Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Rachel is a former assistant editor for WORLD Digital. She is a Patrick Henry College and World Journalism Institute graduate. Rachel resides with her husband in Wheaton, Ill.

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