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Overdose Deaths Hit Record High in 2019, per CDC Preliminary Data

July 16, 2020

A year after drug overdose-related deaths in the United States finally began to decline, they surged back to an all-time high in 2019, according to preliminary data published the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week.

CDC reported 70,980 overdose-related deaths in the U.S. for 2019 in its preliminary findings, which eclipsed the previous record, 70,699 in 2017. OD deaths in 2018 had dipped to 67,850. Eight states had projected increases greater than 20% year-over-year in 2019, led by South Dakota, which saw a 54.4% increase in deaths vs. 2018.

Early numbers for 2020 suggest the new record for overdose deaths set in 2019 could be eclipsed again this year. With the coronavirus pandemic fueling anxiety and social isolation across the U.S., data from the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s Overdose Mapping Application Program in June showed that fatal overdoses were up 11.4% in the first four months of the year vs. the same period in 2019.

“The concerns we have are related to the big challenges people are facing right now with COVID: isolation and uncertainty resulting in very high levels of stress,” Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute for Drug Abuse, said to Politico.

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