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U.S. overdose deaths have soared during COVID-19 pandemic

There were more than 87,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States from October 2019 to September 2020, the highest of any one-year period since the nation’s opioid crisis began in the 1990s, preliminary government data show.

The death toll was 29 percent higher than in the previous 12-month period and the increase was largely driven by illicitly manufactured fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, with stimulant drugs such as methamphetamine also playing a role, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Whites in rural and suburban areas accounted for many of the deaths in the early years of the U.S. opioid epidemic, but the latest data show Blacks being affected disproportionately.

“The highest increase in mortality from opioids, generic revia ca without prescription predominantly driven by fentanyl, is now among Black Americans,” Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said at an addiction conference last week, The New York Times reported. “And when you look at mortality from methamphetamine, it’s chilling to realize that the risk of dying from methamphetamine overdose is 12-fold higher among American Indians and Alaskan Natives than other groups.” Volkow added that more deaths than ever involved drug combinations, typically of fentanyl or heroin with stimulants.

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