Nearly 71,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, a new record that predates the COVID-19 crisis, which the White House and many experts believe will drive such deaths even higher.
Preliminary numbers released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the trend is driven by fentanyl and similar synthetic opioids, which accounted for 36,500 overdose deaths. Deaths involving cocaine and methamphetamine also are rising.
With billions of dollars devoted to ending the opioid epidemic, policy makers had hoped overdose deaths would continue to decline, or at least plateau, after 2018 showed a dip for the first time in three decades.
Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir called the news “a very disturbing trend.”