While the pandemic reigned havoc in the country, another epidemic was crossing through. According to recently released data from the CDC, more than 93,000 people died last year from a drug overdose. The unprecedented numbers seen in 2020 set a record increase of 30 percent from 2019- with 20,000 more deaths than in 2019. The increase was exceptional, to say the least; It is the largest single-year increase since 1999. In the years preceding 2019, the average percentage increase from 1.9 percent to 2.8 percent.

In ten states, Vermont, Kentucky, South Carolina, West Virginia, Louisiana, California, Tennessee, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Virginia, are predicted to have at least a 40 percent increase in drug overdose deaths in the span of 12 months. 28 states had more than a 30 percent increase in overdose in 2021. California was by far the worst hit, with an increase of 45 percent from 2019. 2020 was a unique year, one that has contributed to the increase in drug overdose deaths.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic early last year raised fears that the already increasing deaths from drug overdoses would soar even further. Fears that were confirmed as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped and rocked the nation to the core. It was revealed in prior research that the number of overdose deaths immediately surged to unseen levels after the pandemic hit in March 2020.

The pandemic undoubtedly affected every American in one way or the other. And for this reason, the CDC feels that the increase in drug overdose deaths is due to social isolation, economic stress, and disrupted access to treatment facilities and providers.

2021, as it appears from Preliminary data shows that in the first three months of 2021, there have been 418 overdose-related deaths. Compared to the last 2020s 378 overdose deaths, 2021 is on track to break another record.

46 percent of the 418 deaths are related to fentanyl. Fentanyl, as was last year, is the leading opioid with high mortality. The synthetic drug is sold with the guise of being a pain killer, and doctors advise that Americans be on the lookout for drugs with M initials on them.

According to data released by the CDC, deaths partially attributed to synthetic opioids likely increased by 54 percent in 2020. In 2015, 18 percent of all overdose deaths were from synthetic opioids; in 2020, the percent increase is said to have been around 60 percent; therefore, there has been an exponential increase in deaths in recent years. And as trends suggest, that number is likely to go up in 2021.

The data for 2021 is still incomplete, but it will likely follow in the steps of 2021. Men, the youth, Black, Latinx/Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Asian American communities accounted for the highest drug overdose deaths.

The country is going through a drug epidemic, one that is worsening over time.  The federal government has allocated billions of dollars for substance abuse disorders programs. That will ease the cost burden that falls to local and state governments.

Anthony Tilghman

Anthony Tilghman, is an 3x Award-winning Photojournalist, Education advocate, Mentor, and Published Author with years of experience in media, photography, marketing and branding. He is the Winner of the...