The United States is facing a growing crisis as drug-related deaths continue to rise, with fentanyl-related deaths jumping 279% in just the five years between 2016 and 2021.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), more than 106,000 individuals in the U.S. lost their lives to drug-involved overdoses in 2021, the latest year where data has been collected. These deaths included those involving illicit drugs and prescription opioids.
Figures from the CDC reveal that drug overdose deaths have steadily risen since 1999, with synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) and stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine playing a significant role in this increase.
In recent years, drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone have skyrocketed. In 2021 alone, there were 70,601 reported overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, a substantial increase from previous years. Moreover, the number of overdose deaths involving stimulants, such as cocaine or psychostimulants with abuse potential (primarily methamphetamine), has also continued to climb, reaching 32,537 in 2021.
The NCHS data indicates that while prescription opioid-related overdose deaths initially decreased from 17,029 in 2017 to 14,139 in 2019, they saw a slight uptick in 2020 with 16,416 reported deaths. In 2021, this number increased slightly to 16,706. The data also reveals that heroin-related overdose deaths, which peaked in 2017 with 15,482 deaths, have been trending downward, with 9,173 deaths reported in 2021.
As the U.S. continues to grapple with this devastating crisis, many are trying to use the NCHS’ and CDC’s data to better understand the factors contributing to the increase in drug-related deaths.
What do you think the main contributors to the overdose epidemic in the U.S. are?
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