More than 100,000 people died over a 12-month period from fatal drug overdoses for the first time in U.S. history, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
“This tragic milestone represents an increase of 28.5%” over the same period just a year earlier, said Dr. Deb Houry with the CDC in a call with reporters Wednesday.
Experts blame the continuing surge on the spread of more dangerous street drugs and on disruptions to drug treatment programs caused by the pandemic.
Dr. Nora Volkov, who heads the National Institute On Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, predicted the surge of fatalities would continue because of the spread of more dangerous street drugs.
“They are among the most addictive drugs that we know of and the most lethal,” Volkov said.
In recent years, Mexican drug cartels have pivoted to manufacturing and distributing fentanyl and methamphetamines, which are cheaper to produce and can be shipped in small quantities that are difficult to detect.
Anne Milgram, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, acknowledged Wednesday that efforts to slow trafficking of these drugs haven’t worked.
“This year alone DEA has seized enough fentanyl to provide every member of the U.S. population with a lethal dose,” Milgram said. “We are still seizing more fentanyl each and every day.”
The Biden administration is calling on Congress to approve more than $10 billion in funding for drug treatment and interdiction programs. The White House also asked states to relax rules that complicate access to Naloxone, a medication that can reverse overdoses caused by fentanyl and other opioids.
But the Biden administration has sent mixed signals on how committed it is to following science-based “harm reduction” strategies proven to help keep people with addiction alive.