As millions remained under some form of lockdown, 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses between May 2020 and April 2021, officials said Wednesday.
Most of the deaths were caused by synthetic opioids, especially fentanyl.
“In the 12-month period that ended in April, more than 100,000 Americans died of overdoses, up almost 30 percent from the 78,000 deaths in the prior year, according to provisional figures from the National Center for Health Statistics,” The New York Times reported.
“The figure marks the first time the number of overdose deaths in the United States has exceeded 100,000 a year, more than the toll of car crashes and gun fatalities combined. Overdose deaths have more than doubled since 2015,” the outlet added.
Experts emphasized the huge impact this crisis is having on the nation.
“These are numbers we have never seen before,” Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told The Times.
“They leave behind friends, family and children, if they have children, so there are a lot of downstream consequences,” Volkow added. “This is a major challenge to our society.”
The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the proliferation of fentanyl, are two big reasons for the rising number of overdose deaths, Cleveland Clinic psychiatrist Dr. Akhil Anand told ABC News.
“This alarming data indicates a crisis in the mental health community caused by both the ongoing pandemic and fentanyl’s explosion on the illegal drug scene,” Anand said.
“This new report should be another continued wake-up call to the overdose deaths happening every day, and people often don’t even know what they are taking. This is a public health crisis, and it is crucial we continue to get people into treatment quickly.”
According to Volkow, the crisis surrounding the pandemic spurred many of the overdoses.
“What we’re seeing are the effects of these patterns of crisis and the appearance of more dangerous drugs at much lower prices,” Volkow told CNN.