Annual overdose deaths top 100K for the first time

More than 100,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States during the 12-month period ending April 2021, according to provisional data published Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

That number is a record high and represents a nearly 29 percent increase over the year before, the agency said.

Opioids accounted for nearly 75,000 deaths through April, and synthetic opioids specifically, like fentanyl, killed 64,000 people, the CDC said.

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"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 BidenJoe BidenNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Clyburn predicts Supreme Court contender J. Michelle Childs would get GOP votes Overnight Defense & National Security — US delivers written response to Russia MORE said in a statement. 

Advocacy groups are sounding the alarm about the persistent lack of access to substance use disorder treatment across the country.

Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, the assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, said the administration is working to expand access to treatment but recognizes that "treatment alone is insufficient to ensure long term recovery. That's why we remain focused on increasing funding for recovery support, as well as training additional workforce for peer employment and housing support."

While most attention and government resources have been focused on COVID-19, the overdose crisis has worsened as people struggle with job losses, isolation and the deaths of family and friends brought on by the pandemic.

The Biden administration's American Rescue Plan invested nearly $4 billion to expand access to mental health and substance use disorder services.

Still, administration officials are warning that fast-acting synthetics are a major problem. 

"This crisis is driven by fentanyl and methamphetamine. Today, drug cartels in Mexico are mass producing fentanyl and methamphetamine largely sourced from chemicals in China. And they're distributing these substances throughout the United States," Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Anne Milgram said.