The U.S. recorded an estimated 107,622 drug overdose deaths last year, according to provisional data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday. The number is a large jump from the year prior, when the CDC estimated that 91,799 Americans died due to drug overdose.
Drug overdose deaths have risen sharply in the U.S. since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising 31% from 2019 to 2020 as many Americans were forced to stay home in isolation as the virus swept through the country.
“It’s telling us that 2021 looks like it will be worse than 2020,” Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, said of overdose deaths in November.
Opioid-related deaths are usually caused by the drug fentanyl, which the CDC estimates was responsible for three quarters of the 2021 death toll. The drug has also been blamed for the surge in overdose deaths before the pandemic, with the U.S. recording under 50,000 fatal overdoses as recently as 2014.
But the pandemic worsened the already growing problem, with many Americans in isolation or unable to get the typical treatment for addiction problems.
The U.S. recorded more overall deaths in 2021 than any other year at 3.465 million, a number that was over 80,000 more than 2020’s previous record setting total.
While researchers blamed most of the record setting death numbers on the coronavirus, data showed that deaths from cancer, diabetes, chronic liver disease, and stroke were also on the rise, with some Americans forgoing the typical treatments or screenings for the diseases.