CDC warns of ‘substantial increase’ in fatal drug overdoses coinciding with Covid-19 pandemic

The worst of the deaths coincides with closures and other measures taken to control the pandemic, the CDC said in a health alert.

Data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) indicate that approximately 81,230 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States at that time.

“This is a worsening of the drug overdose epidemic in the United States and is the largest number of drug overdoses for a 12-month period ever,” the CDC alert said.

The most common are overdoses with synthetic opioids, such as illicitly manufactured fentanyl. But there is also an increase in deaths caused by drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine, the CDC added.

And the numbers look bleak. “The 12-month number of synthetic opioid deaths increased by 38.4% from 12 months in June 2019 compared to 12 months in May 2020,” the CDC said.

It observed a 98% increase in synthetic opiate deaths in 10 western states, coinciding with a higher availability of these drugs in that region. “After decreasing by 4.1% from 2017 to 2018, the number of overdose deaths increased by 18.2% from the 12 months ending in June 2019 to the 12 months ending May 2020,” she added.

The agency says people should be educated about the risks of drug use alone.

“These recently published provisional data on fatal overdose, together with the known disruption of 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 to those with the risk of overdose and the need to expand prevention and response activities “, the agency added.

Recommendations also include expanding the use of the naloxone overdose. Expanding the locations of overdose prevention education and naloxone at home, especially in rural areas, is important, the CDC said.