In July 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that 2020 was the worst year in American history for overdose deaths.
According to the CDC’s estimate, we lost 93,000 lives to drug overdose in 2020. This is a 29% increase from 2019 when we lost 72,000 lives.
The staggering and depressing number is a stabbing reminder that we have so much work to do in saving each other.
At a rate of 93,000 deaths a year, we are losing an American life every 5.45 minutes — or roughly 11 lives per hour.
Zooming out, we can average the loss out to 250 deaths per day across the country.
So why was 2020 so bad, and how can we turn the trend of increasing loss around?
The COVID-19 Pandemic Drives Numbers Up
It was a rough year all around in 2020. We fought through the COVID-19 pandemic together, watching 378,000 Americans pass away from COVID-19, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death in 2020, a year in which 3.3 million Americans died in total.
In addition to taking so many lives directly, COVID-19 also likely played a role in the loss of life from overdose.
Evidence is still not clear on whether more Americans began misusing drugs or alcohol in 2020. Because of this, we have to assume a majority of deaths from overdose in 2020 involved those who were addicted or misusing drugs prior to 2020.
During a year in lockdown, we all faced challenges with being isolated from the outside world more than usual. While we as a country rode out the pandemic as well as possible by doing things like exercising, reading, or something else from the comfort of our homes, many others were not able to turn the isolation into a benefit.
For many, it added to the opportunities to indulge in their drug of choice.
Isolation, or general loneliness, is proven to have a negative effect on your mental health. With diminishing mental health, many turn to coping with drugs or alcohol.
Throughout the country, suspended evictions and extended and increased unemployment benefits may have put more money into the pockets of people struggling with addiction. This is another possible reason for increased overdose deaths.
What Drug Leads the Way
According to the CDC’s estimates, opioids were involved in more than 60% of the deaths by overdose in 2020.
About 69,000 deaths were tied to opioid use. This comes as no surprise as we continue to battle an opioid epidemic throughout the country.
The opioid epidemic, while hanging around for many years, has transformed over time.
In the beginning, most cases of addiction and overdose were tied to prescription painkillers. From there, street drugs like heroin and fentanyl became the most common cause of the deaths.
In 2020, a majority of opioid deaths were tied to the synthetic opioid fentanyl, according to the CDC’s findings.
The rate of greater than 60% of deaths being from opioids is not new. In 2019, of the 72,000 deaths, 73% were tied to opioids.
What Is Fentanyl?
The first step in beating the fentanyl epidemic occurring right now is preparing our country with knowledge.
So, what is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a fully synthetic opioid developed to help cancer patients with intense pain. It is only prescribed when a cancer patient has “breakthrough pain,” or pain that persists beyond the help of other opioid pain medications.
In the last 8-10 years, fentanyl has made its way into the illegal drug market and caused havoc. Because fentanyl is 75 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, it does not take long for it to overtake a person’s life entirely.
Drug dealers will mix fentanyl into their products, most commonly heroin, to add to the impact felt by the person taking the drug. Adding or mixing fentanyl into drugs like heroin also leads to much higher rates of overdose from those drugs.
This cycle leads to the unfortunate number of overdose deaths we saw in 2020.
How We Can Slow the Rate of Death Together
Don’t give up on those battling substance use disorder. Now, more than ever before, it is easy to write off any given person’s battle with addiction as a lost cause, but nobody is a lost cause.
There is hope out there for a happier and healthier life with the help of detoxing and rehabilitation — regardless of the substance of choice they struggle with.
If your friend or family member is struggling, continue to support them with care and thoughtful consideration.
The best way to do this is by being prepared for the day when they say they need help. You can do this by doing things like you are doing right now.
Read and learn about the world of drug use and addiction. You can also collect your reading and research and prepare to provide them with immediate options when the time comes.
A person facing addiction is not thriving. Coming to them with attacks and emotional words is not the best approach. This could push them into increased drug misuse or worse.
By explaining to them — with consideration and patience — how their addiction is affecting their life and yours, you can slowly break down the walls the addiction has created around them.
We Are Committed to Change at Shadow Mountain Recovery
At Shadow Mountain Recovery, we specialize in creating a safe and therapeutic environment for New Mexicans to seek treatment and gain stability in their lives.
Beginning with a 24-hour medically supervised detox program for many, our Santa Fe drug rehab offers clients the chance to recover among beautiful sunsets and serene landscapes.
With a 1-6 staff-to-client ratio, each person is given personalized attention and treatment plans to get them well on the road to recovery.
We specialize in treating co-occurring disorders. This is when a person is battling a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder at the same time. Often, treating both disorders together leads to a better chance of recovery.
Call us today at (800) 203-8249 to learn more about how we may be able to help you or your loved one.