healthHealth and Medicine

Over 100,000 Americans Died Due To Drug Overdoses This Year


Ben Taub


Ben Taub

Freelance Writer

Benjamin holds a Master's degree in anthropology from University College London and has worked in the fields of neuroscience research and mental health treatment.

Freelance Writer

Drug overdose

Overdose deaths have been rising in the US for a number of years. Image: Victor Moussa/

Fatal overdoses have hit a record peak in the US, with over 100,000 people dying as a result of drug use in the twelve months leading up to April 2021. This represents a 28.5 percent increase on the previous year, and experts say the sharp rise has been fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic plus a dangerous surge in fentanyl-laced drugs.

Based on official death certificates from across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 100,306 Americans died from drug overdoses between May 2020 and April 2021. The actual figure is yet to be confirmed, but it seems certain to dwarf the previous year’s toll of 78,056.

Only South Dakota, Delaware, New Hampshire, and New Jersey avoided a rise in drug-related deaths. The greatest spikes occurred in Vermont, West Virginia, and Kentucky, where overdoses rose by 70 percent, 62 percent, and 55 percent respectively.

While the US has been in the grip of a disastrous opioid epidemic for the past 30 years, the increase in overdoses has accelerated dramatically in recent times. The current pandemic is believed to have played a major role in this escalation, as social isolation triggers an increase in depression and other mental health issues, while access to vital services that may help to prevent overdoses has been limited.

The CDC reported 93,000 overdose deaths in the calendar year for 2020, the largest annual toll ever recorded, 29.4 percent higher than the previous year. Emergency department visits due to drug overdoses also rose by 28.5 percent in 2020, while a study in Illinois revealed that fatal overdoses began to increase in late 2019, when COVID-19 first became a talking point.

This same study also noted that during the first half of 2020, more than 80 percent of fatal overdoses in Illinois involved fentanyl, a potent opioid that is increasingly being used to adulterate illegal street drugs. Public health experts say this has sparked a significant rise in deaths over the past few years, as many drug users accidentally overdose when consuming substances that have been spiked with fentanyl.

Having seen the country record 100,000 annual overdose deaths for the first time, President Biden labeled the figure “a tragic milestone”. Healthcare officials, meanwhile, are now calling on the government to dedicate more resources to ending this ongoing disaster by providing support to those at risk of dangerous drug use.


healthHealth and Medicine
  • tag
  • death,

  • USA,

  • drugs