NEW YORK – An estimated 100,000 Americans die from drug overdoses in a year, an unprecedented milestone that health officials attribute to the COVID-19 pandemic and drug supplies more dangerous drugs.
Drug overdose deaths have been on the rise for more than two decades, rising rapidly over the past two years and, according to new data released Wednesday, have increased by nearly 30% in the latest year.
President Joe Biden called it “a tragic milestone” in a statement, as administration officials pressed Congress to spend billions more dollars to address the problem.
“This is unacceptable and it requires an unprecedented response,” said Dr Rahul Gupta, Director of National Drug Control Policy.
Experts believe that the leading causes of overdose deaths are due to the rise in the proportion of the deadly fentanyl in the illicit drug supply and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to many people taking it. Drugs are isolated in society and cannot receive treatment or other support.
Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University expert on drug abuse issues, said the numbers were “horrific”. “It’s a severity of overdose death that we’ve never seen in this country.”
Drug overdoses have now surpassed deaths from car crashes, guns and even flu and pneumonia. The total is roughly equal to diabetes, the nation’s 7th leading cause of death.
Based on the latest available death certificate data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 100,300 Americans died from drug overdoses between May 2020 and April 2021. This is not is the official number. It can take months for drug-related death investigations to come to fruition, so the agency has come up with an estimate based on the 98,000 reports it has received to date. .
The CDC previously reported that there will be approximately 93,000 drug overdose deaths in 2020, the highest number recorded in a calendar year. Robert Anderson, the CDC’s head of mortality statistics, said the 2021 tally is likely to surpass 100,000.
Daniel Ciccarone, a drug policy expert at the University of California, San Francisco, agrees: “The year 2021 is going to be horrible.
New data shows many deaths linked to illicit fentanyl, a highly lethal opiate that five years ago surpassed heroin as the leading cause of overdose deaths. most dose. Agents have been mixing fentanyl with other drugs – one reason the number of deaths from methamphetamine and cocaine is also on the rise.
Drug cartels in Mexico are using chemicals from China to mass produce and distribute fentanyl and meth across the United States, said Anne Milgram, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
This year, the DEA seized 12,000 pounds of fentanyl, a record amount, Milgram said. However, public health experts and even police officials say law enforcement measures will not be able to stop the outbreak and that more needs to be done to reduce demand and prevent deaths. death.
The CDC has yet to account for the racial and ethnic disparities of overdose victims.
It shows that the estimated death toll has increased in all but four states – Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey and South Dakota – compared with the same period a year earlier. The states with the largest increases were Vermont (70 and Kentucky (55%)).
Minnesota has seen an increase of about 39%, with estimated drug overdose deaths rising to 1,188 in May 2020 through April 2021 from 858 in the previous 12 month period. there.
The area around Mankato has seen the number of drug overdose deaths increase from two in 2019, six last year to 16 so far this year, said police officer Jeff Wersal, who led a team regional drug task force said.
“Honestly, I don’t see it getting better, not anytime soon,” he said.
Among the victims of the year was Travis Gustavson, who died in February at the age of 21 in Mankato. Wersal said his blood showed traces of fentanyl, heroin, marijuana and the tranquilizer Xanax.
His grandmother, Nancy Sack, said Gustavson was very close to his mother, two brothers and the rest of the family.
She said that he is known for his lovely smile. “He might cry when he was a little boy, but if someone smiled at him, he would stop crying and smile back,” she recalls.
Gustavson first tried drugs as a child and had been in drug treatment as a teenager, Sack said. She has struggled with anxiety and depression, but mostly uses marijuana and various pills, she said.
Sack said that on the morning of his death, Travis had a tooth extracted, but he was not prescribed strong painkillers because of his history of drug addiction. He told his mother he would just stay home and relieve the pain with ibuprofen. He was expecting a visit from his girlfriend that evening to see a movie, she said.
But Gustavson contacted Max Leo Miller, also 21, who provided him with a bag containing heroin and fentanyl, according to police.
Some details of what happened are disputed, but all accounts show Gustavson as a novice to heroin and fentanyl.
Police said Gustavson and Miller exchanged messages on social media. At one point, Gustavson sent a picture of a stream of white substance on a brown table and asked if he had taken the correct amount and then wrote “Or bigger?”
According to the police report, Miller replied, “Younger man” and “Be careful!”
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