Over 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to recent provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While overdose deaths were already increasing in the months preceding the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the latest numbers suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the pandemic.
“The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D. “As we continue the fight to end this pandemic, it’s important to not lose sight of different groups being affected in other ways. We need to take care of people suffering from unintended consequences.”
Synthetic opioids (primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl) appear to be the primary driver of the increases in overdose deaths, increasing 38.4 percent from the 12-month period leading up to June 2019 compared with the 12-month period leading up to May 2020. During this time period:
Addiction to opioids is something that doesn’t just effect already using drug addicts or those who have previously used drugs. In many cases, those effected are the elderly hard working individuals who spent the majority of their lives working difficult blue collar jobs. All types of people, regardless of previous use, economic status, gender or race can fall into the difficult web that is opioid addiction. Once prescribed painkillers, it can be extremely difficult to break free of the habit. (Cortez, M, 2018.)