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CDC: US drug overdose deaths surged during COVID-19 pandemic, most since opioid epidemic began

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found an alarming jump in the number of drug overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from the CDC shows that drug overdose deaths in the U.S. increased by nearly 29% during the pandemic.

The CDC report discovered that more than 87,000 Americans died from drug overdose deaths from September 2019 to September 2020. The one-year period death toll is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a year since the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s, according to the New York Times. Overdose deaths had declined slightly in 2018, the first decrease in decades.

The data was collected by the National Center for Health Statistics, but the CDC noted that the actual number of overdose deaths is likely higher.

“Provisional drug overdose death data are often incomplete, and the degree of completeness varies by jurisdiction and 12-month ending period,” the CDC stated. “Consequently, the numbers of drug overdose deaths are underestimated based on provisional data relative to final data and are subject to random variation.”

The largest increases in drug overdose deaths happened in April and May 2020, when government-mandated lockdowns were the strictest.

The areas with the largest increases in drug overdose deaths: District of Columbia (61.2%), Louisiana (54%), Kentucky (50%), West Virginia (47.3%), and Colorado (43%).

Also this week, Maryland’s Opioid Operational Command Center revealed that 2,773 people died from drug and alcohol overdoses, the most by far in the state since records were kept. Nearly 84% of all reported overdoses were attributed to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.

Last week, the CDC announced the launch of Overdose Prevention Programs, which will supply the public with rapid fentanyl testing strips.

“The test strips can be used to see if drugs have been mixed or cut with fentanyl,” WSPA-TV reported. “The goal is to provide drug users more information, so that they can reduce the chances of overdosing on the drug.”

In 2017, then-President Donald Trump declared the national opioid crisis to be a public health emergency.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said reasons for increased drug addiction could stem from: “Historically high unemployment rates and preventative physical distancing measures have also exacerbated social isolation and despair, known risk factors for substance use disorders.”

A report from the Associated Press released in December found that there were far more overdose deaths than COVID-19 deaths in San Francisco in 2020.

During the coronavirus pandemic, there were also reports of increased suicides of students in Las Vegas, a record-high number of suicidal students in San Francisco, and a 39% increase in suicides in Japan last October.

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