Annual drug overdose deaths hit an all-time high – Mother Jones

The signs are displayed in a tent during a health event on June 26, 2021 in Charleston, W.Va.John Raby / AP

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A record 107,600 people died from drug overdoses in 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today, another tragic indication that potent synthetic drugs and the Covid-19 pandemic have helped fuel a rapid increase in deaths. The estimated total is likely to change as the CDC continues to review death records, but still, the startling increase is evidence that the opioid crisis has continued to grow in size and scale.

Since the 1970s, annual drug overdose deaths have increased every year with the exception of 2018, when the totals fell briefly before reaching all-time highs during the pandemic. 2021 represented a 15% increase over 2020, which in turn exceeded the 2019 total by 30%. The state with the highest overdose increase was Alaska, where deaths increased by a staggering. 75.3%.

Seventy-one thousand of the overdose deaths recorded last year involved fentanyl, an extremely potent synthetic opioid. Fentanyl is often used protection payment other drugs, such as cocaine, which can have fatal consequences for users unaware of what they are actually consuming. Thirty-three thousand deaths involved stimulant methamphetamine, an increase of 8,000 deaths from 2020. Many overdoses, however, have involved the use of multiple drugs.

The Biden administration recently released a national strategy which embraces “harm reduction” tactics to reduce the number of overdoses. Instead of punishing addicts, harm reduction aims to link them to social services and treatment. It also points out programs that help expand access to clean syringes and the drug naloxone, also known as narcan, which can reverse overdoses.