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Drug Overdose Deaths Surges in 2020

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Drug Overdose deaths rose by close to 30% in the United States in 2020, hitting the highest number ever recorded. According to provisional data released by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, more than 93,000 people died from Drug Overdose in 2020.

That’s a 29.4% increase from the 72,151 deaths projected for 2019. The NCHS said that the overdose deaths from synthetic opioids and psychostimulants such as methamphetamine also increased in 2020 compared to 2019. Cocaine deaths also increased in 2020, as did deaths from natural and semi-synthetic opioids.Dr Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, said that this is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in 12 months, and the largest increase since at least 1999. Volkow said that these data are chilling. The COVID-19 pandemic created a devastating collision of health crises in America.

As in recent years, inappropriate use of opioids was behind most of the deaths. The NCHS reported that overdose deaths from opioids rose from 50,963 in 2019 to 69,710 in 2020. This has been an incredibly uncertain and stressful time for many people and we are seeing an increase in drug consumption, difficulty in accessing life-saving treatments for substance use disorders, and a tragic rise in overdose deaths.

As we continue to address both the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid crisis, we must prioritize making treatment options more widely available to people with substance use disorders. Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a former deputy commission at the US Food and Drug Overdose Administration, agreed the pandemic made an already serious crisis even worse.

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