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Drug overdose deaths hit record during pandemic

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Drug overdose deaths in the United States has hit a new record of 93,000 over the last year after experiencing a 30-percent growth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) and psychostimulants such as methamphetamine also increased in 2020 compared to 2019. Cocaine deaths also increased in 2020, as did deaths from natural and semi-synthetic opioids (such as prescription pain medication)," the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) announced in a statement on Wednesday.

"This has been an incredibly uncertain and stressful time for many people and we are seeing an increase in drug consumption, difficulty in accessing life-saving treatments for substance use disorders, and a tragic rise in overdose deaths," Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse said in another statement.

The death rate from overdose has been constantly increasing over the last years mostly due to drug use as well as emergence of new synthetic opioids produced by famous companies, including Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma.

Several US states and cities have filed legal actions against these companies over the past few years as the CDC declared that from 1999 to 2019, nearly 500,000 people died from an overdose involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit drugs.

The “first wave” of the epidemic began in the late 1990s, with increases in deadly overdoses involving prescription opioids.

The next phase started in 2010, with a dramatic increase in overdose deaths involving heroin.

In 2013, a third phase began with a surge in fatal overdoses involving synthetic opioids, especially illegally manufactured fentanyl.


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