A record number of people died from drug overdoses as the pandemic spread across the U.S.

A record number of people died from drug overdoses as the pandemic spread across the U.S.

A record number of people died from drug overdoses as the pandemic spread across the U.S., federal researchers reported on Wednesday. The deaths are the result of lost access to treatment, rising mental health problems and wider availability of dangerously potent new street drugs.

In the 12-month period that ended in April, there were more than 100,000 deaths from overdoses, up almost 30% from the 78,000 deaths in the prior year, according to provisional figures from the National Center for Health Statistics. The figure marks the first time the number of overdose deaths in the U.S. has exceeded 100,000 a year, more than the toll of car accidents and guns combined. Overdose deaths have more than doubled since 2015.

Though recent figures through September suggest the rise in deaths may have slowed, the grim threshold nonetheless signals a public health crisis whose magnitude was both obscured by the Covid pandemic and accelerated by it, experts said.

“These are numbers we have never seen before,” Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said of the tally. The fatalities have wide repercussions, since most of them occur among people aged 25 to 55, in the prime of life, she added.