Over 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Wednesday. Overdose fatalities, which already reached record highs in 2020, increased by 15 percent in 2021.
Last year’s numbers translate to roughly one overdose death every five minutes in the United States. In order to come up with a total, the CDC reviews death certificates and then makes an estimate to account for delayed and incomplete reporting.
U.S. drug overdose deaths have been steadily increasing since the 1990’s, fueled largely by abuse of prescription opioids. In recent years, illicit fentanyl has been killing Americans at a higher rate than heroin and prescription opioids.
Last year, overdoses involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids surpassed 71,000, up 23 percent from the year before. Deaths involving cocaine usage also spiked by 23 percent, as did deaths involving meth and other stimulants, which jumped by 34 percent.
Overdose deaths can often be attributed to more than one substance. Drugs such as cocaine can sometimes be cut with lethal amounts of fentanyl, the latter of which is cheap to produce.
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, called the latest numbers “truly staggering.”
“The net effect is that we have many more people, including those who use drugs occasionally and even adolescents, exposed to these potent substances that can cause someone to overdose even with a relatively small exposure,” Volkow said in a statement.
Experts believe the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated America’s drug crisis, as lockdowns further isolated those struggling with addiction and made treatment options more difficult.