According to a new study from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), a record number of Americans died of drug overdose in 2021, after an estimated 100,000 deaths were reported.
On Wednesday, the NCHS published an updated study examining drug overdose rates and found that approximately 107,622 people died from drug overdoses in 2021, a 15% increase from the estimated 93,655 deaths in 2020.
One of the reasons the death toll is likely increasing was due to the ongoing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the virus forced many care centers and treatment centers to close, leaving people temporarily unable to get help.
As evidence that denial of access to treatment services increased overdose deaths, the NCHS recorded a 30% jump in deaths from 2019 to 2020. This trend looks set to continue through 2021.
With COVID-19 restrictions eased significantly from where they were in 2020, overdose deaths were higher in 2021, but they grew more slowly than the previous year. According to the NCHS, there was an overall 15% increase in overdose deaths in 2021, half of what was seen in 2020.
However, the fact that the number of deaths now exceeds 100,000 remains a worrying development for public health officials.
“It’s unacceptable that we lose a life every five minutes from an overdose around the clock,” Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told Axios.
On April 21, the Biden administration submitted its first national drug control strategy to Congress, prioritizing tackling untreated addiction and increasing funding for drug overdose treatment.