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Fentanyl drives the US overdose death rate to an all-time high with more than 250 deaths each day, 11 every hour

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Record-breaking numbers of overdose deaths in the United States are attributed to the use of stronger opioids and mass lockdowns due to the pandemic.

According to federal figures, more individuals died from drug overdoses in the US last year than at any other time in the history of the country.

The new death toll of 93,000 is far greater than the previous estimate of 72,000, and this results in almost 250 deaths each day, or more than 11 deaths every hour.

The only two states that did not see a rise in drug overdose deaths were New Hampshire and South Dakota.

Kentucky experienced a 54 percent rise to over 2,100 people, while Vermont saw a 58 percent increase from 118 to 186 people, with substantial increases in South Carolina, West Virginia, and California.

According to Shannon Monnat, an associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University, there is no indication that more Americans started taking drugs last year, but the fatalities were more likely to be among individuals who were already dealing with addiction.

Professor Monnat, who studies overdose trends across the country, said several addicts informed her that when subsidies were increased and evictions were halted as part of government epidemic efforts, they had more money to feed their addiction.

As a result of lockdowns and other pandemic-related restrictions, addicts were more isolated, making it more difficult for them to get treatment.

Social distancing and stay-at-home orders hampered needle exchange programmes, opioid replacement treatment, safe injection locations, support groups, and therapy sessions.

Jordan McGlashen died in his Michigan apartment in May of last year, a day before his 39th birthday, after overdosing on heroin and fentanyl.

The musician had lost his job in the early days of the epidemic and had watched his father die of cancer a few months before.

His brother Collin said:

He was alone, and suffering emotionally and felt like he had to use again.

Someone can be doing really well for so long and then, in a flash, deteriorate.

It was really difficult for me to think about the way in which Jordan died.

Prescription medicines were formerly the leading cause of overdoses, but heroin took over in 1970, with approximately 7,200 fatalities.

By 1988, crack cocaine had become the drug of choice, and about 9,000 people had died as a result of an overdose.

Then came fentanyl, which is believed to be responsible for more than 60% of overdose fatalities last year, with opioids accounting for 74.7 percent.

Fentanyl, which is 80-100 times stronger than morphine, was originally developed to relieve pain caused by diseases like cancer, but it is now combined with other medications and sold illegally.

Although national statistics for 2021 are not yet available, state data suggests that fentanyl continues to drive up the number of drug overdose fatalities.

In Rhode Island, there were 34 in January and 37 in February, the highest numbers in at least five years.

Prof Monnat said:

What’s really driving the surge in overdoses is this increasingly poisoned drug supply.

Nearly all of this increase is fentanyl contamination in some way. Heroin is contaminated. Cocaine is contaminated. Methamphetamine is contaminated.

Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

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