The United States counted some 107,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021, a 15% increase over the previous year and a new tragic record, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by U.S. health officials.
This number means that one person dies from an overdose every 5 minutes in the country.
About 70,000 of the deaths were due to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the main federal public health agency.
This was followed by stimulants such as methamphetamines (over 30,000 deaths) and cocaine (almost 25,000) and natural / semi-synthetic opioids, such as heroin (approximately 13,000). In many cases, the deaths occurred due to the simultaneous consumption of several substances.
The United States announced that it had broken the barrier of 100,000 overdose deaths for the first time in 12 months, a milestone with heavy symbolism, in April 2021.
The 15% increase recorded in 2021 is twice as much as the one recorded between 2019 and 2020 (+ 30%).
The opioid crisis has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated the isolation of some populations, experts say.
The largest increase in 2021 was recorded in Alaska: in this state, deaths increased by more than 75%.
Extremely addictive, easy-to-prepare fentanyl is increasingly being mixed by other drug traffickers, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It is also added to fake labeled pills sold over the internet, especially painkillers.
In late April, the government of Joe Biden announced an action plan to address the ongoing crisis, with two aspects: providing more assistance to addicts and combating trafficking.
The US government mainly wants to focus on so-called “risk reduction” practices, such as the distribution of naloxone (an antidote capable of resuscitating an overdose), tests to verify the presence or absence of fentanyl, used syringes are exchanged for new ones. He also wants to expand access to treatments (methadone, buprenorphine …).
“We will double the number of admissions for treatment (s.s. detoxification) among populations at greater risk of dying from overdose,” he promised in a press conference in April. Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office on Drugs and Crime.