A heroin user displays a needle in a South Bronx neighborhood which has the highest rate of heroin-involved overdose deaths in New York City, on Oct. 6, 2017. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
US Drug Overdose Deaths Surged Nearly 30 Percent in 2020 to Record High
July 14, 2021 Updated: July 14, 2021
Deaths from drug overdose in the United States jumped nearly 30 percent in 2020 from the year before, according to provisional data released Wednesday.
Over 93,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2020, up from 72,151 in 2019, according to the provisional statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The 93,331 estimated deaths in 2020 would be the most on record, a year after that record was set.
“This is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, and the largest increase since at least 1999,” Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in a statement. “These data are chilling. The COVID-19 pandemic created a devastating collision of health crises in America.”
Driven by high levels of stress amid the pandemic, more people are turning to drugs, Volkow said. At the same time, treatment options for addiction were delayed or halted because of harsh lockdown mandates.
Keith Humphreys, a professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, said on Twitter the numbers show that addiction is a bigger public health crisis than COVID-19.
Opioids were a big factor in the surge. Opioids, a drug class that includes synthetic products like fentanyl and prescription painkillers like oxycodone, were a factor in approximately 75 percent of the deaths.
“We do know the primary driver of the increase involves synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl,” Bob Anderson, chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the CDC, told Reuters.
The death numbers are based on death records received and processed by the National Center for Health Statistics from 50 states and the District of Columbia.
A study published last month found that shelter-in-place mandates, commonly known as lockdown orders, failed to save lives during the pandemic. While less people may have died from COVID-19 because of such orders, deaths came in higher from drug overdoses, murders, and unintentional injuries, researchers said.
Michele Holbrook, who lost her son Chandler Cook, to an overdose during the pandemic, told The Epoch Times he experienced more severe depression because of a lack of daily structure and a steady income after the restaurant he was working at had to let him go.
The Florida woman was upset over the fact that liquor stores were deemed “essential businesses” by some officials while Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings weren’t, meaning the former stayed open and the latter closed.
“People that don’t understand this disease feel you can just walk away from it at the drop of a hat. And I know you cannot,” she said. “I saw it firsthand with Chandler. He didn’t like it, it wasn’t something he enjoyed.”
Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
Follow Zachary on Parler: @zackstieber