Last month the Centers on Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data that indicates that drug overdoses in this country reached an all-time high of 90,000 in the 12 month period that ended on September 30, 2020. The numbers represent a stark increase after the already high numbers seemed to stabilize between 2017 through 2019 at between 68,000 and 70,000.  In 2000 there were 17,415 overdose deaths.


Research seems to suggest that a great deal of it is related to the synthetic drug fentanyl. Since the explosion in the use of prescription opioids, that addiction has transitioned in part to heroin and later fentanyl as cheaper street versions.  


According to the CDC data, which is still being revised, the numbers seemed to steadily increase by at least 2000 drug overdose increases each month once the pandemic was in full force in the spring of last year. The twelve-month period which looks at October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020, shows that the states with the biggest increases of more than 40 percent over the year were: Louisiana (54%), Kentucky (50%), West Virginia (47%), South Carolina (45%), Colorado (43%) and Florida (42.4%).  


According to earlier CDC reports from three years ago, overdose deaths remained stable from 2009 through 2013 but then headed upward at about 27 percent each year from 2013 through 2018. At that time, approximately 80% of overdose deaths involved opioids and three of four opioid overdose deaths involved illicitly manufactured fentanyls (IMFs). The CDC report suggests the combination of drugs complicates intervention and treatment. 


A 2018 report by the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) examined the impact of increased opioid use on foster care.  Substance Use, the Opioid Epidemic, and the Child Welfare System: Key Findings from a Mixed Methods Study found a 10 percent increase in overdose death rates corresponded to a 4.4 percent increase in the foster care entry rate and a ten percent increase in the hospitalization rate due to drug use corresponded to a 3.3 percent increase in the foster care entry rate. At the time, the report indicated that more research was needed to understand better how economic opportunity and substance use interact at the community level, but they also conclude that action to address the risks and consequences of the opioid epidemic in communities simultaneously facing economic challenges need not wait. 

Additional drug treatment dollars were added to both Covid Relief packages in December and again in March. The December package provides $1.5 billion for state opioid relief grants, while the March America Family Rescue Act added another $1.5 billion for treatment.