According to a preliminary data release by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. drug overdose deaths rose again to more than 70,000 in 2019 and experienced another steep increase since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. In the twelve months ending in July, more than 83,000 overdose deaths were recorded.
In 2018, deaths due to overdose had fallen for the first time in 20 years. There were 67,367 deaths from overdoses in the U.S. in 2018 compared to 70,237 in 2017. The 5.6 percent decline marked the first drop in overdose deaths since 1999.
One of the problems in tackling overdose deaths have been synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Fentanyl is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and it is accounting for an increasing share of the illegal drug market. It can lead to deaths if other drugs like heroin or cocaine are laced with it.
While deaths from opioid overdoses make up around 70 percent of all overdose deaths in the U.S., almost 80 percent of the recent increase in deaths were caused by opioids.
When it comes to state-level data, Louisiana and South Carolina recorded some of the highest increases of overdose deaths in the twelve months ending July. Deaths in South Carolina were almost 44 percent above CDC predictions, while those in Louisiana exceeded projections by more than 50 percent.