A year that has tested our will, emotional capacity and mental health has just been given another grave distinction: the highest number of overdose deaths recorded in a 12-month period, and by a large margin. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that drug overdose deaths in 2020 reached over 93,000, representing a nearly 30 percent increase from the prior year. As of 2019, there were approximately 841,000 overdose deaths recorded in the United States, this recent increase puts the nation well on its way to a million.
This tragic and alarming revelation obliterates any incremental progress that was made when overdoses slightly dipped in 2018, and reinforces substance use disorder as one of the leading public health issues facing the country.
The Pandemic is Only Partially to Blame
It’s easy to place blame for this unprecedented spike in overdose deaths squarely on COVID-19. The reality is there were many pandemic-related factors that led to and exacerbated substance use disorder, including but not limited to:
- Anxiety over Health and Economic Issues
- Depression from Social Isolation
- Trauma from Losing A Friend or Loved One
- Dramatic Strains on Hospital Resources for Emergency Care
- Shifts to Remote Care for Acute Medical and Mental Health Services
- Decreased Resources for Inpatient Substance Use Treatment
These factors, however, are not solely to blame for the overdose uptick. The fact is that, with the exception of a slight decrease three years ago, overdose deaths in the United States have risen consistently for the past 30 years.
What’s Behind These 2020 Drug Overdose Deaths?
Opioids are, without question, the leading driver of the consistent rise in American overdose fatalities, with prescription painkillers and synthetic varieties, like fentanyl, topping the list. The National Center for Health Statistics reported that overdose deaths from opioids rose from 50,963 in 2019 to 69,710 in 2020. Alongside opioids, cocaine deaths continue to rise, as well.
As COVID-related restrictions continue to ease, society is left with the toxic aftermath of overdose fatality, while millions more Americans per year come within inches of death from non-fatal overdose.
Uses of the anti-overdose drug Narcan (naloxone) surged in many states during the pandemic, but for many, it still wasn’t enough. In Florida, for example, there was a 37 percent increase in overdose fatalities in 2020 to 7,579 from the already-alarming number of 5,233 in 2019. Perhaps one of the most dispiriting parts about this trend is that it’s expected to continue into 2021.
The Way Forward: Combatting US Drug Overdose Deaths in 2021 and Beyond
While these higher-than-ever overdose rates may seem like a punch in the gut to the widescale public health efforts meant to counteract them, there are measures being taken to combat this crisis on every front. In a move that signals increased accountability, for example, the Sackler family, who own Purdue, reached a $4.5 billion settlement with 15 states as part of legal actions dissolving the company. On the medical front, doctors are being scrutinized closer than ever for their prescribing practices to ensure responsible dispensation.
The reality is, however, that no real meaningful progress on the human level will be made without treatment. Recovery Unplugged has witnessed, first-hand, the devastating impact of continued overdose fatality, and we want to let you and your loved one know that we see you, we hear you and we are ready to help. Our team of experts is determined to help you or your loved one from becoming another casualty of addiction. Contact us today to start healing at any one of our locations across the country. We are in-network with most major insurance companies and offer all levels of care.
2020’s drug overdose death rates clearly illustrate that treatment has never been more important; but if you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, you already know that. Get help now.