Drug overdose deaths rose by close to 30% in the United States in 2020, hitting the highest number ever recorded, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday.
More than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020, according to provisional data released by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. That's a 29.4% increase from the 72,151 deaths projected for 2019.
"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 NCHS said in a statement.
"This is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, and the largest increase since at least 1999," Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, said in a statement.
"These data are chilling. The COVID-19 pandemic created a devastating collision of health crises in America," added Volkow.
As in recent years, inappropriate use of opioids was behind most of the deaths. The NCHS reported that overdose deaths from opioids rose from 50,963 in 2019 to 69,710 in 2020.
"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," Volkow said.
Doctors have also been blamed for overprescribing opioids and addicting people to them in the first place.