An estimated 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in one year, a never-before-seen milestone that health officials say is tied to the COVID-19 pandemic and a more dangerous drug supply.
Overdose deaths have been rising for more than two decades, accelerated in the past two years and, according to new data posted Wednesday, jumped nearly 30% in the latest year.
President Joe Biden called it “a tragic milestone” in a statement, as administration officials pressed Congress to devote billions of dollars more to address the problem.
“This is unacceptable and it requires an unprecedented response,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of National Drug Control Policy.
Experts believe the top drivers of overdose deaths are the growing prevalence of deadly fentanyl in the illicit drug supply and the COVID-19 pandemic, which left many drug users socially isolated and unable to get treatment or other support.
A record 699 people died of overdoses from January through December in 2020, according to a new report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. This number may seem surprising amid the global COVID-19 pandemic when San Francisco has shuttered schools and businesses to prevent deaths. In S.F., 235 people passed away from complications of the coronavirus in 2020.