In 2019, close to 71,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, with 36,500 of those deaths due to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, according to preliminary numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday.
This is a new record, and comes after 2018 showed a slight decline in overdose deaths, The Associated Press reports. More than 30 states saw a jump in overdose deaths, with both methamphetamine and cocaine deaths rising.
Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Brett Giroir said in a statement the increase in overdose deaths is "a very disturbing trend," and there is "an extraordinary amount of work to do, especially now as we are also dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic that could markedly affect our nation's mental health and risk of substance use."
Brendan Saloner, an addiction researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told AP that in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont — states where drug users are being taught ways to prevent overdoses and treatment is more readily available — there was a decline in overdoses. Overall, he is still concerned that the coronavirus pandemic will make a bad situation worse, since people are "feeling a lot more despair, anxiety, and rootlessness, that leads to more problematic drug use and more risk of overdose."