Overdose deaths in the United States hit an all-time high in 2020


Drug overdose deaths in the United States hit an all-time high during last year’s pandemic, according to a report released on July 14 by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The jump from 72,000 deaths in 2019 to 93,000 in 2020 represented a change of almost 30%. Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), called the 12-month increase the largest since 1999.

Michael Barnett, MD, an assistant professor of health policy and management at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, said the numbers were in line with what he expected as the pandemic has had such a devastating impact on people. people with substance use disorders.

“Once COVID-19 entered the scene, we added uncertainty, financial losses, social isolation, and widespread disruption in healthcare, among others, to an issue that was at the level of the crisis for start, ”he said. “So I’m unfortunately not surprised to see these updated numbers. And I’m glad they weren’t even higher. But we have a lot of work to catch up that has been put on hold over the past 18 months. “

Synthetic opioids (mainly illicitly manufactured fentanyl) appeared to be the main determinant of the escalation of deaths. About 69,000 opioid-related deaths were recorded in 2020, up from nearly 20,000 in 2019.

“Drug addiction has been an unchecked crisis in the United States for decades now, accelerating with the rise of more dangerous injection drugs like fentanyl,” says Dr. Barnett.

To cope with the crisis, Barnett advocates for a healthcare system that prioritizes drug addiction treatment and evidence-based therapy like buprenorphine for an opioid use disorder.

the Administration of Addiction and Mental Health Services provides a national helpline (800-662-HELP) which offers free and confidential counseling and information, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families dealing with mental health problems and substance use.


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