US Had Its Highest Drug Overdose Deaths Ever Recorded In 2020

by : Hannah Smith on : 14 Jul 2021 18:15
PA Images

Drug overdose deaths have hit the highest levels ever recorded in the United States, after the number of fatal overdoses rose by 30% last year.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that more than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020, compared with an estimated 72,151 in 2019. The majority of deaths were from opioids – including both prescription medication and synthetic products like fentanyl – with these having killed 69,710 people in 2020.

Drug overdose deaths are up 30% on last year (PA Images)PA Images

In a statement, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), said:

This is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, and the largest increase since at least 1999.

These data are chilling. The COVID-19 pandemic created a devastating collision of health crises in America.

Experts believe that the pandemic has contributed to a worsening addiction crisis, both as a result of living in an ‘incredibly uncertain and stressful time’ and due to reduced access to treatments for substance addiction and overburdened healthcare services.


Amid the worsening figures, there have also been calls for regulators to step in to control the over-prescribing of opioids by doctors.

Opioid addiction is the biggest contributor to overdose deaths (PA Images)PA Images

‘There are definitely actions that the clinical community can take to reduce the risk of people becoming addicted to opioids,’ Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CNN.

‘If you think about how the country has made progress on COVID since there was a clear national strategy that included goals and good data and evidence for critical projects – I think that kind of approach is important here. The same kind of urgency and strategy that has been applied to COVID could produce results over time.’


If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Most Read StoriesMost Read

Film and TV

Alex Scott Tearfully Discovers Her Family Owned Slaves

Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith is a London-based journalist at UNILAD. After studying History at UCL she worked for print publications on both sides of the pond, including spells at Harper's Magazine and The Times, before graduating with an MA in Newspaper Journalism from City, University of London.

Topics: Health, Drug Addiction


  1. CNN

    Drug overdose deaths in 2020 hit highest number ever recorded, CDC data shows