CDC: US Hits New Record High for Overdose Deaths

Substance use disorder (SUD) continues to take a deadly toll, as new data shows a double-digit increase in the number of overdose deaths nationwide.

According to provisional counts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a record 87,203 Americans died from drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending September 2020. The number was 29% higher than for the prior 12-month period and roughly 2% above the CDC’s estimate for the time span. 

With the exception of South Dakota, every state plus the District of Columbia reported an uptick in overdose deaths for the 12-month period ending in September 2020. And because the provisional counts are incomplete due to underreported data, the actual number of overdose fatalities could be even higher.

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The release of the new CDC data comes as the nation continues to face significant challenges with SUD, mental health conditions and suicidal ideation amid the pandemic.

Roughly 40% of adults in 2020 reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition related to the pandemic, the CDC said last year.

Additionally, in December, the CDC released a report showing a record number of overdose fatalities — 81,230 — for the 12-month period ending in May 2020. At the time, the agency called for health departments and treatment providers to increase access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) drugs such as naloxone, particularly to those in remote communities, as well as for those making the transition from criminal justice institutions, residential facilities and hospitals.

“These … provisional fatal overdose data, coupled with the known disruption to public health, healthcare, and social services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related mitigation measures, highlight the need for essential services to remain accessible for those most at risk of overdose and the need to expand prevention and response activities,” the December report noted.