Drug overdoses killed the equivalent of a large planeload of Americans every other day last year, figures show.
Early data showed more than 105,000 died, but due to reporting delays, officials expect the final count to be more than 109,000, which would be a record.
The numbers represent a plateau from the previous year, which saw 107,000 overdose deaths recorded, which the White House heralded as a sign that the country was “overcoming” the crisis.
But health scientists sounded more skeptical, with one warning that this could be just a “wiggle” before fentanyl and other drugs like xylazine cause overdose deaths to rise again.
The graph above shows the number of confirmed (black line) and predicted (dotted line) drug overdose deaths in the United States by year. Data for 2022 is still preliminary, due to the time it takes states to catalog and report a death
This map shows how the number of drug overdose deaths has shifted by state over the past year of data availability. Most report an increase.
America has been grappling with an escalating overdose crisis since the 2010s, when fentanyl was first added to the illicit drug supply.
It is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and can help drug users achieve a more intense high.
But the drug — which can also be used to knock horses out — is toxic, with just two milligrams capable of killing an adult.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures were based on reports filed with the National Vital Statistics System, which monitors births and deaths across the country.
They showed that there were 105,452 drug overdose deaths by 2022.
But the figure is still preliminary because of the time it takes to catalog deaths and determine the cause of death — and several thousand more are expected.
Based on the preliminary figures, the number of overdose deaths is expected to increase by 0.5 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year.
This is a lower increase than in previous years, with an increase of 16 percent through 2021 and 30 percent the year before, but it does not mean a drop in numbers.
It is also the equivalent of all 660 passengers on a Boeing 747-400 dying every other day.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, the director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), hailed them as evidence that the US “overcame” the crisis.
Broken down by state, the strongest increases in fatalities were recorded in Wyoming, up 22 percent, and Washington, up 21 percent.
But at the other end of the scale, South Dakota, down 17 percent, and Maryland, down 8 percent, saw the sharpest declines.
Dr. Gupta revealed the numbers: “We’ve expanded treatment to millions of Americans, we’re improving access to naloxone to reverse overdoses, and we’re attacking the illicit fentanyl supply chain at every bottleneck.”
“As a result, about 19,000 people are still alive and can be present at the dinner table, at birthdays and at life’s most important moments.”
He added, “President Biden called on us to redouble our efforts to save even more lives so that we can overcome this crisis, and that is exactly what we are doing.”
The Biden administration has been working to make naloxone, a drug that can reverse a fatal overdose, available nationwide to help combat overdose deaths.
Xylazine prolongs the highs of heroin and other street drugs, but leads users to pass out for hours at a time, while injection points swear and lead to horrific wounds that spread across the body. Pictured: Homeless on the streets of Kensington, Philadelphia
The chart above shows drug overdose deaths where drugs or drugs were involved in the fatal outcome
They have also cracked down on the importation of illicit drugs, including those laced with fentanyl, from abroad, particularly from Mexico and China. The White House said £240,000 of illegal drugs were seized at the country’s borders last year, while £290,000 were also seized within the country.
Pamela Lynch, executive director of Harm Reduction Management Michigan, which oversees drug overdose deaths, told the Washington Post that the data was a ‘step in the right direction’.
But other experts sounded less positive, including Dr. Donald Burke, a health scientist at the University of Pittsburgh who has modeled 40 years of data on the overdose crisis.
He said the plateau could be a “wobble” for another increase.
“Anyone looking at this with historical trends in mind and a little bit of statistics in mind will probably say it’s not going to go down,” he said.
The roots of the US drug crisis go back to the 1990s, when pharmaceutical companies began aggressively marketing opioid painkillers as a safe and effective way to treat chronic pain.
The companies convinced doctors that the risk of addiction was low, prompting them to write prescriptions for millions of Americans.
When these ran out, many eventually turned to the black market to continue using the drugs as they had become addicted, and many turned to heroin as a cheaper and more accessible alternative.
This led to today’s crisis when manufacturers started mixing drugs like heroin with fentanyl.
Drug overdoses killed equivalent of airliner full of Americans every DAY last year, new figures show