Nov 17, 2021 - Health

Drug overdose deaths top 100,000 for first time

A map of downtown Los Angeles in the city's Center for Harm Reduction with blue pins representing  overdose reversal and red pins showing overdose fatalities.
A map of downtown Los Angeles in the city's Center for Harm Reduction with blue pins representing overdose reversal and red pins showing overdose fatalities as of Sept. 28. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

An estimated 100,306 people in the United States died from a drug overdose in a 12-month period ending April 2021, according to new provisional data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's the first time drug overdose fatalities reached six figures in a 12-month period and signals that the country is on track to set another tragic milestone after reporting a record 93,331 drug deaths in 2020.

  • The data presented is incomplete, as many cases require more investigating to confirm a cause of death, though the agency's estimates rarely largely differ from the final totals.

What they're saying: "As we continue to make strides to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot overlook this epidemic of loss, which has touched families and communities across the country," President Biden said in a statement Wednesday.

  • "As we grieve those we’ve lost and honor their memories, my Administration is committed to doing everything in our power to address addiction and end the overdose epidemic," Biden added.
  • "To all those families who have mourned a loved one and to all those people who are facing addiction or are in recovery: you are in our hearts, and you are not alone. Together, we will turn the tide on this epidemic."

The big picture: It's roughly a 28% increase over the same time period a year earlier.

  • Greater prevalence of synthetic opioids, specifically fentanyl, and the social and economic disruptions set off by the coronavirus pandemic are widely believed to be the cause of the increased deaths.

Go deeper: America's substance use crisis has spiraled

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