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The CDC estimates there were over 100,000 overdose deaths from April 2020 to April 2021

CDC estimates 28% rise in drug overdose deaths, fueled by fentanyl

Nov 17, 2021


According to data on overdose deaths released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 100,306 Americans died from an overdose between April 2020 and April 2021. The estimate is not an official count. Since it can take many months for death investigations involving drug fatalities to become final, the CDC made the estimate based on 97,900 reports it has received so far. The estimate is up 28.5% from 78,056 overdose death estimated between April 2019 and April 2020.

Drug overdose deaths now surpass those from car crashes, guns, the flu and pneumonia are approaching diabetes as the nation’s No. 7 cause of death.

“This is unacceptable and it requires an unprecedented response,” National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta said. Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University expert on drug abuse issues, added there’s “a magnitude of overdose death that we haven’t seen in this country”.

In a White House statement Wednesday, President Joe Biden called the new overdose deaths data “tragic”. He said his administration is “committed to doing everything in our power to address addiction and end the overdose epidemic”.

“Through the American Rescue Plan, we’ve delivered nearly $4 billion to strengthen and expand services for substance use disorder and mental health,” President Biden said in the statement. “We’re working to make health coverage more accessible and affordable for all Americans, so that more people who need care can get it. We are strengthening prevention, promoting harm reduction, expanding treatment, and supporting people in recovery, as well as reducing the supply of harmful substances in our communities.”

Experts believe the top drivers of overdose deaths are the growing prevalence of fentanyl, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Five years ago, fentanyl surpassed heroin as the type of drug involved in the most overdose deaths.  According to Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Anne Milgram, the DEA has seized a record 12,000 pounds of fentanyl. Dealers have mixed fentanyl with other drugs, which explains in part why deaths from methamphetamines and cocaine also are rising.

In July, the CDC reported there were about 93,000 overdose deaths in 2020. That was the highest number recorded in a calendar year. Robert Anderson, the CDC’s chief of mortality statistics, said the 2021 tally is likely to surpass 100,000.