Drug overdose deaths in US hit record high in 2021, pandemic faulted over border crisis

US drug overdose deaths soared 15% in 2021, reaching an all-time high, setting grim record according to CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention marked another grim milestone for the United States on Wednesday, reporting that more than 107,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2021, jumping by 15 percent to the highest annual death toll on record with fentanyl being the primary killer.

Although the number is horrific and the jump of 15 percent is shocking, it is not nearly as bad as the jump between 2019 and 2020, when overdose deaths skyrocketed by 30 percent, according to the CDC.

Farida Ahmad, a scientist at the NCHS, says it is way too early to say whether the slowdown will hold. A number of factors play into the statistical number including the pandemic, mental illness, and other issues plaguing Americans. The data is currently incomplete and subject to change, according to NBC News, but it is doubtful it would change for the better given current conditions.

Ahmad also pointed out that even if the increase in overdose deaths is smaller than the year before, the total from 2021 is still massive.

Much of the jump in the overdose death rate is being blamed on the pandemic. As millions were locked down and unemployment increased, there was an uptick in substance abuse and mental health issues.

“This is indeed a continuation of an awful trend. Rates of overdose deaths have been on an upward climb for decades now, increasing at unprecedented rates right before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US,” Dr. Nora Volkow, who is the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told CNN.

“This is a devastating milestone in the history of the overdose epidemic in America. When we report numbers, we must remember that each number represents an individual, their families, and their communities,” she said. “Compounding this tragedy, we have underused evidence-based treatments already in place that could help many people. We must meet people where they are to prevent overdoses, reduce harm, and connect people to proven treatments to reduce drug use.”

Joseph Friedman, an addiction researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, noted that overdose deaths were already on the rise before COVID arrived on the scene, but there was “clearly a very sharp uptick during the pandemic.” He published research in April that showed drug overdose deaths among teenagers shot upward over the last two years.

Fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid, was the primary culprit in overdose deaths in 2021 killing 71,238.

Between 2019 and 2020, the rate of overdose deaths almost doubled in the US for teens between the ages of 14 and 18. In the first half of 2021, teen overdose deaths rose another 20 percent, according to Friedman’s research.

It represents “a completely unprecedented finding for this group,” Friedman stated.

“Over the past 40 years, adult [overdose] death rates have continued to skyrocket exponentially, and we’ve never seen that for teens,” he said. “They’ve had very flat, stable overdose death rates, and then all of a sudden that’s changing.”

Nearly 5 out of every 100,000 adolescents ages 14 to 18, or more than 950 teens, died of an overdose in 2020, according to the research. More than 70 percent of those deaths were from fentanyl and other synthetic drugs. That number rose to 77 percent among the nearly 1,150 teens who died of an overdose between January and June in 2021.

“Now that the drug supply is so dangerous, all it takes is trying an illicit opioid just once and you can easily die of an overdose,” Dr. Andrew Kolodny, who is the medical director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, told NBC News. “That might be what we’re seeing here. Or it could mean a sharp increase in new addiction in young people, which would be even more concerning.”

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) bluntly stated on Twitter after hearing the statistic, “Our open border -and the fentanyl pouring across it – is killing Americans in record numbers. Biden doesn’t care. They only care what the radical immigration groups think, not you.”

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