A record number of Americans died from drug overdoses during the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, new figures from the federal government reveal.
Between March 2020 - when most states started issuing lockdowns and stay-at-home orders - and March 2021, there were 96,779 overdose fatalities, according to data released on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
This represents a 29.5 percent rise from the roughly 74,679 drug overdose deaths that were recorded over the previous 12 months ending in March 2020.
The spike appears to be mainly driven by an increased use of opioids since last year, and specifically fentanyl, the synthetic opioid 100 times stronger than morphine.
The pandemic has created the perfect breeding ground for addiction with many turning to opioids to cope with job losses and the deaths of loved ones to the programs being canceled or replaced with telemedicine for those trying to maintain sobriety.
Between March 2020 and March 2021, the U.S. recorded a record-high 96,779 drug overdose deaths, new CDC data show (above)
It's a 30.8% increase from the 74,679 overdose fatalities reported over the 12-month period from March 2019 to March 2020. Pictured: Firefighters and paramedics with Anne Arundel County Fire Department transport a patient after responding to a call for a cardiac arrest as a result of a drug overdose in Brooklyn, Maryland, May 2020
The CDC looked at death records received and processed by the NCHS's National Vital Statistics System.
After overdose deaths declined between November 2017 and March 2019, fatalities began rising again.
Specifically drug overdose deaths seem to have accelerated during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Increases first began from the 12-month period ending in March 2020 to the 12 months ending in April 2020, rising from 74,676 deaths to 77,017 deaths.
By May 2020, the 12-month period recorded 80,577 deaths, with continued increases through March 2021.