Reportedly, nearly 110,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States last year. preliminary federal data The startling numbers, released Wednesday, mark a plateau after two years of rapid growth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the provisional overdose death toll was 109,680, just slightly above the estimated 109,179 deaths in 2021. The number of overdose deaths increased significantly in the same year and the year before, rising by about 17% in 2021 and 30% in 2020.
Dr. Rahul Gupta of the White House National Drug Control Policy Office said in a statement Wednesday that the Biden administration’s overdose strategy is working. “We are expanding treatment to millions of Americans, improving access to naloxone to reverse overdoses, and attacking the illicit fentanyl supply chain at every hardest point,” he said. said.
Still, the newly published data are the latest in the devastating effects of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is often mixed with stimulants and other drugs and may go undetected before drug samples are ingested. provided the indications. Synthetic opioids contributed to about 75,000 overdose deaths last year, according to the CDC
The six-figure death toll was another sign that the country’s efforts to mitigate the toll of its increasingly complex and deadly drug supply were far from complete. A drug overdose is decrease in life expectancy In the United States, it is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Other drugs that can be mixed with domestically supplied fentanyl, such as the cheap and addictive animal tranquilizer xylazine, increase the risk of opioid use.
The National Drug Control Policy Office last month designated xylazine as an “emerging drug threat,” requiring the Biden administration to develop a government-wide plan to address the drug epidemic.
Officials warned that the number of overdose deaths in 2022 is an estimate and could change as the government scrutinizes more death records from states. A CDC spokeswoman said the final tally for 2022 won’t be released until later this year or early next year.
Since the 1970s, drug overdose deaths have increased every year except 2018. The sharp increase in 2020 and 2021 “is largely due to significant changes in the availability of fentanyl in many parts of the country,” said the National Drug Administration, part of the National Institutes of Health. said Dr. Wilson M. Compton, Associate Director of the Institute of Abuse.
Dr. Daniel Ciccarone, professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said new data showing deaths leveling off last year “could bend this historically high curve.” .
Still, Dr. Cicccarone said, “We cannot be entirely optimistic whether this is a sign of lasting change.” He warned of a continuing trend of overdose deaths among unsuspecting people who use counterfeit tablets containing fentanyl.
Many of the interventions sought by the Biden administration to reduce overdose deaths are loosely summarized in a strategy known as “harm reduction,” which encourages the use of tools that make drug use safer. President Biden will be the first president to endorse this strategy.
A key part of this strategy is naloxone, an overdose-reversing drug that is now available over-the-counter. Navarun Dasgupta, a scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has studied naloxone use in the United States, said some states that have been particularly aggressive in adopting naloxone, such as Arizona, Utah and West Virginia, have seen overages. He said his intake was reduced. number of deaths last year.
Prescribing buprenorphine, an effective home addiction drug for opioid users, has become easier. However, a recent study found that the drug is still largely underprescribed, including in black patients.
Drug-testing tools such as fentanyl test strips, which alert users to the presence of drugs in samples, are also saving lives, public health experts say.
“People can make different choices, or safer choices, if they know it,” says Project Weber, an organization in Providence, Rhode Island that works with drug users and distributes fentanyl test strips. Renew Executive Director Colleen Daly Ndoi said.
The group plans to launch the first monitored drug consumption site legalized by the state early next year. Daily Ndoye said drug-testing machines would most likely be part of the site.