Drug overdoses killed more than 100,000 in US in 2021, a 15% rise over 2020
- Drug overdoses killed more than 100,000 in the US in 2021
- The death toll rose by 15% in 2021 in comparison to 2020
- Fentanyl overdoses accounted for the most number of overdose deaths in 2021
Data released by the National Center for Health Statistics on Wednesday showed that there were 107,622 deaths in 2021 that were attributed to drug overdoses, up 15% from 93,655 deaths in 2020.
"It is unacceptable that we are losing a life to overdose every five minutes around the clock," said Rahul Gupta, director of the White House's Office National Drug Control Policy, commenting on the statistic.
A large chunk of the overdose death toll of 2021 was attributed to overdoses of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid developed to treat symptoms of chronic pain: according to NHCS data, fentanyl overdose deaths accounted for as many as 71,238 deaths in 2021.
In terms of mortality, fentanyl was followed by crystal methamphetamine, cocaine, and natural opioids such as heroin and morphine.
In addition to the aforementioned drugs, it is believed that the lack of treatment of those suffering from substance use disorders (SUD) also contributed to the striking overdose death toll: in 2020, for instance, only 6.5% of the 41.1 million people in need of treatment for SUD received treatment. This figure, it is believed, did not improve much in 2021.
"That is why President Biden’s new National Drug Control Strategy signals a new era of drug policy centered on individuals and communities, focusing specifically on the actions we must take right now to reduce overdoses and save lives," Gupta added, referring to President Joe Biden's proposal to Congress to take a new approach to fight the overdose epidemic in the US.
The Biden-Harris administration in April proposed to ramp up the availability of life-saving drugs such as naloxone, in addition to providing drug test strips and syringe services programmes, to bring down overdose deaths.
That being said, overdose deaths have halved in comparison to two years ago: while such fatalities in 2020 rose 30% over 2019, 2021's 15% increase suggests that the overall trend may be on the decline.