Drug-induced suicides in the U.S. surged nearly 30 percent in 2020, stemming from a deadlier supply and the effects of the COVID-19 lockdowns, according to federal data and public health officials.
The estimated 93,331 deaths from drug overdoses last year ring up the sharpest annual increase in at least 30 years, according to CDC data released Wednesday.
The surge was primarily propelled by a proliferation of fentanyl. The pandemic increased overdoses, due to social isolation, trauma and job loss, the Wall Street Journal reports. Overdose deaths began rising in 2019 with the spread of fentanyl, but spiked in March of 2020 when the pandemic shutdowns set in.
Fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin, is now frequently mixed into other illegal drugs, often unbeknownst to the user.
An estimated 57,550 people died of overdose from synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl, which is a 54 percent increase over 2019.
COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death in the United States in 2020, after heart disease and cancer. Unintentional injuries, which include overdose, were the fourth-leading cause.