CDC Reports 30 Percent Increase in Overdose Deaths in 2020

This week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released preliminary data of drug overdose death counts for 2020, finding a nearly 30 percent increase in overdose deaths compared to the year prior. Approximately 93,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2020, compared to 72,000 in 2019. Notably, California, along with nine other states, are anticipated to realize at least a 40 percent increase in overdose deaths from the previous 12-month span.

According to the CDC, opioids accounted for the largest increases in drug overdose deaths. Preliminary data suggests fentanyl was involved in more than 60 percent of the overdose deaths last year, with significant increases realized in the Western U.S. As CDC data further indicates, deaths related opioids (and especially fentanyl) far outpaced overdose deaths caused by heroin last year. Individuals between the ages of 35 and 44 accounted for the highest number of opioid overdose deaths.

The 2020 provisional figures represent the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, as well as the largest increase since at least 1999. In explaining the significant jump in overdose deaths, experts suggest the COVID-19 pandemic likely played a compounding role relative to drug treatment access, stay-at-home orders, and economic stressors.

The CDC is anticipated to finalize 2020 data over the coming months. Provisional data from the CDC is available here.