A record of nearly 110,000 overdose deaths in 2022: A closer look at the numbers

The year 2022 marked a devastating milestone in the United States, with almost 110,000 lives lost due to drugs, making it the deadliest year on record. These alarming figures were recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shedding light on the severity of the drug crisis. However, amidst this grim reality, there is some glimmer of hope.

Despite the record-breaking death toll, officials highlight a positive aspect: the rate of increase in drug-related deaths was up two percent in 2022, compared to the staggering 17 percent surge in 2021 and a 30 percent spike in 2020. Dr. Rahul Gupta, the director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, expressed his belief that the overdose strategies implemented by the Biden administration are yielding results.

“We’ve expanded treatment to millions of Americans, we’re improving access to naloxone to reverse overdoses and we’re attacking the illicit fentanyl supply chain at every choke point,” Gupta said in a statement.

While these efforts have shown promise, the impact has varied across different states. Maryland and West Virginia, two states heavily affected by the fentanyl crisis, observed a notable decrease in drug-related deaths, around seven percent. Additionally, 21 other states reported fewer overdose deaths, and Iowa experienced no significant change. Unfortunately, the remaining states witnessed an increase in deadly drug overdoses. Eight states, in particular, encountered a surge of nine percent or more, with Washington state and Wyoming facing the highest increases, at a troubling 21 percent.

Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, expressed deep concern about the persistently high number of deaths, especially considering the end of the COVID pandemic.

“One could have expected that as many of the challenges imposed by the COVID pandemic were resolved, we would see a deep dive in the number of overdose deaths. It’s concerning we have not seen that,” Volkow told NPR.

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids remained the primary contributors to overdose deaths in 2022, highlighting the urgent need to address the widespread impact of these substances.