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Drug overdose deaths in the U.S. have topped 100,000 for the first time

A bag of assorted pills and prescription drugs dropped off for disposal is displayed during the Drug Enforcement Administration's 20th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day earlier this year in Los Angeles. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than  100,000 people died of a drug overdose from April 2020 to April 2021.
Patrick T. Fallon
/
AFP via Getty Images
A bag of assorted pills and prescription drugs dropped off for disposal is displayed during the Drug Enforcement Administration's 20th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day earlier this year in Los Angeles. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100,000 people died of a drug overdose from April 2020 to April 2021.

More than 100,000 people died over a 12-month period from fatal drug overdoses for the first time in U.S. history, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

"To all those families who have mourned a loved one and to all those people who are facing addiction or are in recovery: you are in our hearts," said President Joe Biden in a statement issued by the White House. "Together, we will turn the tide on this epidemic."

"This tragic milestone represents an increase of 28.5%" over the same period just a year earlier, said Dr. Deb Houry with the CDC in a call with reporters Wednesday.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, who heads the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, called the surge in drug fatalities "unacceptable."

"An overdose is a cry for help," Gupta said during the press conference. "For far too many people that cry goes unanswered. This requires a whole lot of government response and evidence-based strategies."

Experts blame the continuing surge on the spread of more dangerous street drugs and on disruptions to drug treatment programs caused by the pandemic.

"[Overdoses] are driven both by fentanyl and also by methamphetamines," said Dr. Nora Volkov head of the National Institute On Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.

She predicted the surge of fatalities would continue because of the spread of more dangerous street drugs.

"They are among the most addictive drugs that we know of and the most lethal," Volkov said.

The Biden administration is calling on Congress to approve more than $10 billion in funding for drug treatment and interdiction programs.

The White House also called in states to relax rules that complicate access to Naloxone, a medication that can reverse overdoses caused by fentanyl and other opioids.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brian Mann