Drug overdoses killed the equivalent of a large plane full of Americans every two days last year, figures show.
Early data showed more than 105,000 people died, but due to reporting delays officials expect the final tally to be over 109,000, which would be a record high.
The figures represent a plateau from the previous year, when 107,000 overdose deaths were recorded, which the White House announced as a sign that the country was “beating” the crisis.
But health scientists sounded a more skeptical note, with a warning that it could just be a ‘wobble’ before fentanyl and other drugs like xylazine trigger a further rise in overdose deaths. .
The graph above shows the number of confirmed (black line) and predicted (dotted line) overdose deaths in the United States by year. Data for 2022 is still tentative, due to the time it takes for a death to be cataloged and reported by states
This map shows how drug overdose deaths have changed by state in the last year that data is available. Most report an increase.
America has been grappling with a growing 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 addicts achieve a more intense high.
But the drug – which can also be used to stun horses – is toxic, with as little as two milligrams capable of killing an adult.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures were based on reports submitted to the National Vital Statistics System, which tracks births and deaths nationwide.
They showed that there were 105,452 drug overdose deaths in 2022.
But the figure is still tentative due to the time needed to catalog the deaths and determine the cause of death – with a few thousand more still to be reported.
Based on provisional figures, overdose deaths are expected to have increased by 0.5% in 2022 compared to the previous year.
This is a smaller increase than in previous years, with deaths up 16% through 2021 and 30% the year before – but it does not represent a drop in numbers.
It is also the equivalent of the 660 passengers of a Boeing 747-400 who die every two days.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), touted them as proof that the United States was “beating” the crisis.
Broken down by state, the largest increases in deaths were in Wyoming, up 22%, and Washington, up 21%.
But at the other end of the scale, South Dakota, down 17%, and Maryland, down 8%, saw the largest declines.
Revealing the figures, Dr Gupta said: ‘We’ve extended 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 point of need. strangulation.
“As a result, around 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 has called on us to redouble our efforts to save even more lives so we can beat this crisis, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
The Biden administration has worked to make naloxone, a drug that can reverse a fatal overdose, available nationwide to help combat overdose deaths.
Xylazine prolongs the effects of heroin and other illicit drugs, but users pass out for hours at a time, while injection sites ulcerate and cause gruesome wounds that spread all over the body. Pictured: Homeless people on the streets of Kensington, Philadelphia
The chart above shows drug overdose deaths where the drug(s) were involved in the death
They have also cracked down on illicit drug imports, including those containing fentanyl, from overseas, particularly Mexico and China. The White House said that last year, 240,000 pounds of illicit drugs were seized at the country’s borders, while 290,000 pounds were also seized inside the country.
Pamela Lynch, executive director of Harm Reduction Management Michigan, which monitors overdose deaths, told the Washington Post that the data was a “step in the right direction”.
But other experts struck a less positive note, including Dr. Donald Burke, a University of Pittsburgh health scientist who modeled 40 years of data on the overdose crisis.
He said the plateau could be a “wobble” before another increase.
“Anyone looking at this with historical trends in mind and a bit of statistics in mind will probably say it’s not going down,” he said.
The roots of America’s 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 taking drugs because they had become addicted, and many turned to heroin as a cheaper and more accessible alternative.
This spawned the current crisis when supplies of drugs like heroin began to be mixed with fentanyl by manufacturers.