Opioid overdose deaths have skyrocketed alongside pandemic deaths, Elizabeth Tracey reports


Even as Covid deaths begin to climb again nationally, the most recent data on drug overdose deaths shows a dramatic increase in the last year. Eric Strain, a substance use disorders expert at Johns Hopkins, reviews the data.

Strain: The CDC does a rolling number of overdose deaths. They sent out information through December 2020, and there’s a little over 92,000 overdose deaths in the previous 12 months. That’s a 29% increase to the prior year. I think the other thing to be cognizant of is that the overwhelming majority of these are opiate overdoses. Of that 92,000, 69,000, almost 70,000 of them are opioid related. :30

Strain says any number of factors must be considered in understanding this rise, including pandemic related isolation and mental illness, and lack of access to healthcare services including substance use disorder treatment, even while prescribing of medications to help has expanded. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.