CDC Issues Advisory as Drug Overdose Deaths Spike

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Is COVID-19 response to blame? Probably, Redfield suggests.

The CDC issued a Health Alert Network advisory to medical and public health professionals and others Thursday, saying drug overdose deaths have soared to the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period.

Approximately 81,230 drug overdose deaths occurred in the U.S. in the 12 months ending May 2020, with the largest spike after the COVID-19 public health emergency started, from March 2020 to May 2020.

Drug overdose deaths were rising before March, but the findings suggest they accelerated during COVID-19, the agency said.

“The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, in a statement. “As we continue the fight to end this pandemic, it’s important to not lose sight of different groups being affected in other ways. We need to take care of people suffering from unintended consequences.”

The number of deaths increased 18.2% from the 12-month period ending in June 2019 to the 12-month period ending in May 2020 and appeared to be driven largely by deaths involving synthetic opioids like illicitly manufactured fentanyl, according to the CDC.

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