While the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated headlines, especially lately with the rise in Omicron cases, over the past two years, an even deadlier epidemic has been quietly claiming the lives of more Americans than ever before.
According to a new report from CDC, fentanyl overdoses have surpassed COVID, car accidents and suicide as one of the leading causes of death in people between the ages of 18 and 45. The National Center of Health Statistics reports that roughly 100,000 people died from overdoses between April 2020 and April 2021, marking the first time that number has reached six digits, with fentanyl accounting for 64% of drug deaths.
A synthetic opioid 50 times more potent than heroin, fentanyl has become increasingly more prevalent over the past few years with more and more dealers cutting methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and even in some cases marijuana with the drug often times unbeknownst to the buyers. As a result, fentanyl is becoming even more common in areas of the country where it hadn't been previously seen.
The problem has only grown worse during the pandemic which has exacerbated the opioid epidemic by interrupting drug treatment programs and had a negative effect on the population's mental health, making those who are already struggling more susceptible to substance abuse. The pandemic has also halted border crossings which has incentivized drug traffickers to favor the more compact and manageable fentanyl over heroin.
The surge has begun to have a disproportionate effect on the Black population. According to the medical director of Opioid Policy Research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, that fentanyl is even deadly to some of the most experienced drug users, meaning, low-income populations have been hit especially hard. Couple that with the fact that the CDC reports that 56% of people that died due to a fentanyl related overdose had no pulse before first responders even arrived on scene.
"Had we not experienced COVID, maybe it wouldn’t have been 100,000 deaths in a 12-month period," Kolodny says. "But it still would have been an extremely high loss of life, a human and economic impact that should not be tolerated. And yet we’re still not taking appropriate action.”
If you feel like you are struggling with addiction and could use some support, please call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP.
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