More people died of fentanyl overdoses in 2021 than from meth, cocaine, heroin, oxycodone overdoses

·2 min read

Fentanyl is killing tens of thousands more Americans than any other drug -- and it’s not even close. New numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show just how much drug overdose deaths are rising across the country.

In 2021, fentanyl killed 69,943 people in this country, according to new data from the CDC.

“It’s hard,” Robert Zellner of Alternative Drug and Alcohol Counseling in Maryland said. “It’s really hard.”

From 2016 to 2021, the report shows the death rate for overdoses involving fentanyl increased by 279%. These findings compare fentanyl overdose deaths to those involving other common drugs like cocaine, meth, heroin and oxycodone.

“It’s a stark reminder what we’re fighting,” Zellner said.

For Zellner these aren’t just numbers in a chart.

“They’re numbers that represent a lot of my lost friends lost loved ones friends of friends, their family members,” Zellner explained.

Zellner gets it -- he is in recovery and now helps others like him.

“It is a little disheartening but we’re doing our best,” he said.

The fentanyl death rate since 2016 has been higher than any of the other drugs listed and consistently rising. Then, in 2019, there is a sharp increase with the pandemic.

“More people use drugs alone,” Associate Professor Brendan Saloner, who studies opioids and overdoses at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said. “That happened during the pandemic for sure and that just made it much more lethal to encounter fentanyl because it meant that if someone overdosed, the likelihood someone else would be able to revive them with Narcan was just a lot lower.”

He hopes a report like this motivates people to act.

“It’s not inevitable that the trends that we’re seeing have to continue in this sort of disturbing direction,” Saloner added. “I think there’s a lot of good that could be done. So, I hope people see a report like this and of course, like you know, feel alarmed and concerned, but also feel galvanized.”

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