Jul 14, 2021 - Health

CDC says drug overdose deaths hit record 93,300 in 2020

Roy Lee stands next to his girlfriend Trina Mills' as she holds onto a large photograph of her son Shane Robert Mills while attending a day to honor those who have died due to accidental overdoses.
A couple attends Black Balloon Day, a day to honor those who have died due to accidental overdoses, Portland, Maine, March 6. Photo: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Deaths from drug overdoses in the U.S. soared by nearly 30% in 2020, reaching a record high of 93,331, according to provisional data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The shocking figures — which represent the sharpest annual increase in at least three decades — reflect the proliferation of the synthetic opioid fentanyl in the illegal narcotic supply and the pandemic's toll on the opioid crisis.

  • There were an estimated 72,151 deaths from drug overdoses in 2019, according to the data.

The big picture: Overdose deaths involving opioids reached 69,710 in 2020, up from 50,963 in 2019, according to the Washington Post.

  • Deaths from methamphetamine and cocaine also rose.
  • More than 900,000 people have died of overdoses since the U.S. drug epidemic began in about 1999, according to the Post.

What they're saying: "That is a stunning number even for those of us who have tracked this issue,” Brendan Saloner, associate professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the Wall Street Journal. "Our public health tools have not kept pace with the urgency of the crisis."

Driving the news: President Biden, who has committed to addressing the drug epidemic, yesterday nominated former West Virginia health commissioner Rahul Gupta to be the administration's drug czar.

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