US drug overdose deaths surged to record 93,000 in 2020: data

Washington (AFP) –


US deaths from drug overdoses surged to a record 93,000 during 2020, driven largely by rising opioid use during the pandemic, official data showed Wednesday.

A provisional count from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Vital Statistics System showed 93,331 deaths for the 12 months ending December 2020, an all-time high, and up 29.4 percent on the year before.

Opioids, primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl, were responsible for 69,710 of the deaths -- a trend in keeping with the last several years.

Deaths involving psychostimulants with abuse potential, such as methamphetamine, were also up.

Deaths rose across nearly all states, with the biggest spikes seen in Vermont, Kentucky, South Carolina, West Virginia and California.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to many increased stressors including financial hardship, social isolation and the disruption of school and health care, according to a recent report by the Well Being Trust.

Former CDC director Robert Redfield said in December people with substance use disorders were hit particularly hard by disruptions to daily life, and the agency was working with states to direct prevention and treatment strategies.

More than 500,000 Americans have died of opioid overdoses -- both prescription and non-prescription -- since 1999.

Corporate drugmakers such as Purdue Pharma have been taken to court on criminal charges over their drives to push unnecessary sales of prescription opioids, which stoked a nationwide addiction crisis.