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Drug overdose deaths top 100,000 in 12 months for the 1st time: 'A tragic milestone'

The United States has reached a "tragic milestone," as a "staggering" number of overdose deaths were reported in one 12-month period. 

Provisional data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the number of overdose deaths in the United States surpassed 100,000 in 12 months from May 2020 through April 2021, NBC News and CNN report. The number rose 29 percent to 100,306 compared to 78,056 during the prior year. This was the first time ever with more than 100,000 overdose deaths reported in one year. 

"These are numbers we have never seen before," National Institute on Drug Abuse director Dr. Nora Volkow told The New York Times. "They leave behind friends, family and children, if they have children, so there are a lot of downstream consequences. This is a major challenge to our society."

National Center for Health Statistics mortality statistics branch chief Bob Anderson also told NBC News, "It's a staggering increase for one year." 

The data released Wednesday showed that 64 percent of those drug overdose deaths were caused by synthetic opioids, according to CNN. Drug overdose deaths increased in every state but four, according to NBC: Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and South Dakota.

Data from the National Center for Health Statistics previously indicated there were 93,331 deaths from drug overdoses in 2020, which already represented the biggest year-to-year jump since 2016. This new data, Anderson told The Wall Street Journal, is "telling us that 2021 looks like it will be worse than 2020." 

President Biden on Wednesday said the data shows "our nation has reached a tragic milestone," adding, "As we continue to make strides to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot overlook this epidemic of loss, which has touched families and communities across the country."