Dec 17, 2020 - Health

CDC: Drug overdose deaths accelerated during pandemic

An illustration of light blue pills in a brown background appearing as gravestones with "RIP" on each

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An estimated 81,000 people died from a drug overdose between June 2019 and May 2020, the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released on Thursday.

Why it matters: The provisional data suggests the pandemic accelerated overdose deaths.

The big picture: The report aligns with previous data showing overdose deaths spiked during the first three months of 2020. The agency estimates the U.S. will surpass last year's record.

By the numbers: Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are the culprit for most of the deaths. Their use increased about 38% compared to 2018-2019 data.

  • 10 western states reported over a 98% increase in synthetic opioid-involved deaths.
  • Overdose deaths involving cocaine also increased by 26.5% nationwide.

What they're saying: “The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.

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