Reported overdose deaths have skyrocketed in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio between April 2020 and April 2021, according to a report published last week on the Centers for Disease Control website.
Kentucky's 12-month death rate jumped 54.5 percent between April 2020 and April 2021, increase from 1,501 to 2,319. Indiana's overdose death rate grew 32.4 percent from 1,878 to 2,487. Ohio jumped 26.6 percent, rising from 4,410 to 5,585.
Kentucky and Indiana were ahead of the U.S. as a whole, which had a reported 28.5 percent jump in overdose deaths during the same period while the country hit 100,000 reported overdose deaths for the first time in history - up from 78,000 in April 2020.
Only three states saw drug overdose deaths fall during the first year of the pandemic - South Dakota (down 19.1 percent), New Hampshire (down 7.2 percent) and New Jersey (down 1 percent).
The early months of 2021 saw 12-month drug overdose death rates rise higher than in 2017 in Ohio, when the opioid epidemic and the introduction of fentanyl sent overdose deaths to record levels. Ohio reached a peak of 5,293 deaths over a 12-month period in June 2017, but passed that total in January of this year with 5,317. The rate has grown every month in 2021.
The surge in overdose deaths has been driven by several factors, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which told CNN on Nov. 17 that it's a combination of cheaper synthetic opioids and the COVID-19 pandemic.
"What we're seeing are the effects of these patterns of crisis and the appearance of more dangerous drugs at lower prices," NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow told CNN on Nov. 17. "In a crisis of this magnitude, those already taking drugs may take higher amounts and those already in recovery may relapse. It's a phenomenon we've seen and perhaps could have predicted."
During a White House briefing last week, the administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration said the US government had seized enough fentanyl this year to give every American a lethal dose.
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