For the first time, more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S. over the course of a year.
Drug overdoses killed over 100,000 Americans in the one-year period between April of 2020 and April of 2021, according to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Overdose deaths have been rising nationally over the past two decades, but they’ve accelerated dramatically over the past few years, and NCHS data shows overdose deaths actually went up 28.9% from the year before.
Tom Synan, Newtown police chief and chief of the Addiction Response Coalition, said overdoses in the Greater Cincinnati region have remained steady, but the region still sees 50 to 70 overdose deaths weekly.
The data shows many of these deaths involved fentanyl, a highly lethal opioid. It’s often mixed with other drugs, which is one reason why deaths from methamphetamine and cocaine are also on the rise, The Associated Press reports.
Synan said the Tri-State region is no exception to seeing more ODs attributed to fentanyl.
"We would still have addiction if fentanyl was not in the drug supply, but we would not have ever reached 100,000 people," he said. "Fentanyl is the major issue."
The potency of fentanyl is a major factor: Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin.
To curb addiction and future overdoses, Synan said law enforcement's tools are limited — he points to healthcare industries and said they need to step up instead of the problem falling to police over and over.
"Our scope really is to enforce laws and when you criminalize addiction itself, our treatment is taking someone to jail often," he said. "That shouldn't be the case."
Synan said stigma around addiction is also still a major contributing factor preventing many from getting the help they need before they overdose.
In a statement about the “tragic milestone,” President Joe Biden said the U.S. cannot overlook the drug epidemic as it makes strides in defeating the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we grieve those we’ve lost and honor their memories, my administration is committed to doing everything in our power to address addiction and end the overdose epidemic,” wrote Biden. “Through the American Rescue Plan, we’ve delivered nearly $4 billion to strengthen and expand services for substance use disorder and mental health.”
Biden said his administration is working to make health coverage more accessible and affordable. He also said the White House is strengthening prevention, promoting harm reduction, expanding treatment, and supporting people in recovery, as well as reducing the supply of harmful substances in the U.S.
“To all those families who have mourned a loved one and to all those people who are facing addiction or are in recovery: you are in our hearts, and you are not alone. Together, we will turn the tide on this epidemic,” said Biden.
The NCHS provided the graphic below that illustrates the drug overdoses in the U.S.