The pandemic has taken a toll on the health of a large chunk of the population in the United States. The latest government data shows that it was not just the physiological health that suffered, but mental health was greatly affected as well. It was ascertained that deaths from drug overdose reached record highs.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that for a period of 12 months ending in May, more than 81,000 people died from drug overdose. The CDC reported that this number of deaths from overdose was the highest that they have recorded within a period of 12 months.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, revealed in a health advisory issued on Thursday that the disruption caused by the pandemic to the daily lives of people has hit hard on those with substance use disorder.

He noted that as the fight against the pandemic is ongoing, it is important that one must not lose sight of various groups that are also being affected in other ways. He said care must be given to those who are suffering from consequences that have not been intended from the very beginning.

The CDC data showed that the use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, was the main driving force behind the appalling numbers. The death toll from synthetic opioid use increased by 38.4 percent in a 12-month period. The data compared the 12 months ending in June 2019 as compared to 12 months ending in May 2020.

Out of the 38 jurisdictions that have available synthetic opioid data, there were 37 jurisdictions that reported an increase in overdose deaths from synthetic opioid use. There were 18 jurisdictions that reported an increase of 50 percent.

The CDC noted that overdose deaths that involved cocaine have also increased. It was up by around 26.5 percent in a period of 12 months. Other data also showed that other deaths where cocaine was involved included both cocaine and synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl.

Drug overdose
Drug overdose reaches all-time high Photo: Pixabay

With the data that the CDC has, the agency now highlights the necessity for essential services to remain accessible amid the pandemic, including services that help those who are at a high risk of suffering from a drug overdose. The CDC recognised that the disruption to public health, social services, and healthcare has also led to limited access to these services, and such must be given due attention.