The number of US drug overdose deaths jumped nearly 30% from March of 2020 to March of 2021, according to newly-released figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There were a little more than 96,000 lives lost during that time.
The CDC looked specifically at deaths during that period when the coronavirus pandemic was at its peak.
By comparison, during all of 2019, there were a little more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in the US.
A 30% increase from 2019 to 2020 was the highest increase since 1999.
The CDC refers to the number of drug deaths as "provisional," since drug overdose deaths require more time to confirm.
Opioids account for the largest number of drug deaths.
"It is important to remember that behind these devastating numbers are families, friends, and community members who are grieving the loss of loved ones," said Regina LaBelle of the President Office of National Drug Control Policy.
She urged Congress to fund President (Joe) Biden's budget request to improve substance abuse prevention and treatment.
Of all US states, Vermont saw the highest increase in overdose deaths during the pandemic year, at more than 85%.
In Ohio, where drug overdoses have long been a problem, a panel of health experts said Wednesday that opioid deaths had "skyrocketed" during the pandemic and opioids were also playing a role in human sex trafficking in the state.
It is believed survivors of trafficking turn to opioids to numb their trauma./aa