US drug overdose deaths set new record – as fentanyl deaths surge


Don Emmert/AFP

Annual drug overdose deaths have reached another record high in the United States as deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids surge to unprecedented levels.

An estimated 105,752 people died of drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending October 2021, according to provisional data published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

About two-thirds of those deaths involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, a stronger and faster-acting drug than natural opiates.

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids have had a rapid and dramatic rise; overdose deaths involving these drugs have nearly doubled over the past two years, from about 35,000 deaths in the 12-month period ending October 2019 to more than 69,000 in October 2021.

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids have had a rapid and dramatic rise; overdose deaths involving these drugs have nearly doubled over the past two years, from about 35,000 deaths in the 12-month period ending October 2019 to more than 69,000 in October 2021.

“Fentanyl, even at very, very small quantities, is lethal for most people,” said Katherine Keyes, an associate professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health whose research focuses on psychiatric and substance use epidemiology. “It’s just an incredibly potent opioid.”

The CDC first reported overdose deaths surpassed 100,000 annually in data through April 2021. We’re now in the seventh month in a row out of the last 12 that estimates have surpassed this level.