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Monday, June 21, 2021

Drug Overdose Deaths Up 30% in Pandemic Year, Government Data Show

Joyce Frieden
MedPage Today 
Originally published 1 June 2021

Mortality from all types of drug overdoses increased by a whopping 30% over a 1-year period, Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), reported at the FDA Science Forum.

Data from the National Center for Health Statistics from October 2019 to October 2020 shows that mortality from overdoses from all types of drugs increased 30%, from 70,669 deaths in October 2019 to 91,862 deaths in October 2020, "and I think that that is a number that is very, very chilling," Volkow said at the forum. Among those overdose deaths in both years, more than half came from synthetic opiates -- "the most notable presence is fentanyl," she said. There was also a 46% increase in overdose deaths from other psychostimulants, mainly methamphetamine, and a 38% increase in deaths from cocaine overdoses.

Having any kind of substance use disorder (SUD) also affects the risk of getting COVID-19, she continued. According to a study done by Volkow and colleagues, "Regardless of the specific type of substance use disorder -- legal or illegal -- there was a significant increase in the likelihood of people that have a substance use disorder to become infected," she said. Their study, which included electronic health records from 7.5 million patients with an SUD diagnosis, found that patients with a recent SUD diagnosis -- within the past year -- were nearly nine times more likely to contract COVID-19 than patients without that diagnosis; for those with opioid use disorder in particular, their odds of contracting COVID were 10 times higher.