The United States government is struggling to contain a drug epidemic in the region as officials announced on Wednesday that more than 100,000 Americans have died of fentanyl overdose between April 2020 to April 2021, marking a record high milestone.
The recent announcement is the first time that deaths related to a drug have reached six figures within any 12-month period. The average death per day was 275, and the number of victims was equal to the number of residents in Roanoke, Virginia.
Fentanyl Overdose Deaths
The newly released data showed that the number of fentanyl overdose deaths outnumber fatalities from all types of drugs in 2016. The government, health care providers, activists, and others have tried to control the issue to no avail, and instead, the problem is getting worse.
While the new figures are still provisional, final tallies are not expected to change by a significant amount. The numbers represent a 28.5% increase from the same period the year before. Experts are blaming the financial, social, mental health, housing, and other difficulties brought by the coronavirus pandemic as being the primary reason for the issue, the Washington Post reported.
On Wednesday, United States President Joe Biden's administration officials said that they will expand access to medications such as naloxone, which is able to reverse an overdose of an opioid. They will do this by encouraging states to pass laws that will give residents more access to the drugs and promote their use by Americans.
The director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Dr. Rahul Gupta, said that no one should lose their life because of as simple a reason as not having access to naloxone. The medical professional added that the incident was happening across the country and noted that naloxone's availability varied greatly depending on the area.
While more recent numbers through September suggest that the issue with fentanyl overdose has slowed down, the recently reached peak suggests a public health crisis. This could even be made worse and not given enough attention due to the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Times reported.
A Tragic Milestone
In the last two decades, the number of deaths related to drug overdose has been increasing and was accelerated in the last two years because of the coronavirus pandemic. Democratic President Biden called the incident a "tragic milestone" in a statement as officials urged Congress to set aside billions of dollars to address the massive problem.
Gupta noted that the number of fentanyl overdose victims was unacceptable and required an unprecedented response from the federal government. A Columbia University expert on drug abuse issues, Katherine Keyes, called the data "devastating." She added that the number of deaths was never before seen in the United States.
The victims of drug overdose have now surpassed fatalities from events such as car crashes, guns, and even flu and pneumonia. The total number of drug-related deaths is now much closer to matching that of diabetes, which is the No. 7 cause of death in the United States, Yahoo News reported.