Deaths from overdoses increased 15 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year, according to provisional data released on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC reported that approximately 108,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2021. The newly reported uptick comes after 2020 recorded a shocking 30 percent increase in overdose deaths.
"Drug overdoses, which long ago surged above the country's peak deaths from AIDS, car crashes and guns, killed about a quarter as many Americans last year as COVID-19," The New York Times reports.
A growing proportion of drug deaths involved synthetic opioids and fentanyl, which can be mixed with other drugs and may prove deadly even if the drug user is unaware.
"Previously, prescription drug misuse and heroin use were the primary drivers of overdose deaths," director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, told CNN. "However, as fentanyl and other synthetic opioids began to infiltrate the drug market… we started to see how expanding exposure of a profitable, easy-to-make, and incredibly dangerous drug dramatically increased risk and vulnerability to drug overdose deaths."
Some experts believe the COVID-19 pandemic may have also worsened the situation due to social isolation.
The data provided by the CDC may change as the government reviews more death records.