70,980 dead of drug overdoses in the United States in 2019.

This is according to provisional data newly released from the CDC.

The number represents both a record high and a 4.8 percent increase over 2018.

Connecticut’s death rate rose 17 percent during the same time period.

You can read the CDC report here:

Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts

Connecticut’s fatal OD data for the first six months of 2020 should be available by the end of August.  Based on data I saw recently* about the first four months of 2020, Connecticut’s OD rate was up 24% over the same time period in 2019.

This upsurge (its way more than a tick) is not due to COVID because deaths were up 23% in January-February, while COVID didn’t hit until March.

Why the upsurge?

It could be the continued increase of fentanyl (present in 92.1 percent of deaths in February 2020 versus 79.7 in 2019), the addition of other adulterants such as xylazine (which was found in 40 deaths in the first four months versus only 10 in the same time period of 2019), or just the steady onslaught of stigma and a failed war on a drugs.

COVID-19 has killed 137,419 Americans this year alone, including 4,380 in Connecticut, and has been met with an unprecedented, deserved, and some would say still inadequate, response.  As far as fatal overdoses and the opioid epidemic, for all our good intentions, I think most would agree our national response has been, and continues to be, inadequate.

These are trying times.  What we do as a nation in the coming months and years to protect our most vulnerable, will be the true mark of our country’s stature in the world.

*Department of Public Health Presentation for Alcohol and Drug Policy Council Virtual Meeting