A surge in the number of U.S. residents who have died of a drug overdose — 81,230 in the 12 months ending last May — set a record for the most such deaths in a one-year span, according to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall, drug overdose deaths jumped by 18 percent from the previous year, with increases recorded in 46 states (by more than 20 percent in 25 of those states) and just four states recording a decrease.

Deaths attributed to synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl, increased 38 percent nationwide, but 98 percent in 10 western states.

Overdose deaths tied to cocaine use, often involving co-use or mixing with fentanyl or heroin, increased about 26 percent, and deaths linked to psychostimulants, such as methamphetamine, increased 35 percent.

The CDC noted that the death rate from drug overdoses accelerated as the coronavirus pandemic set in, disrupting daily life and leading to isolation, depression, anxiety and economic distress for many, including people with a substance use disorder.

In a health alert, the CDC urged broader distribution and use of naloxone, a medication that can block the effects of an overdose, as well as expanded prevention and treatment for those struggling with drug use. A free and confidential hotline, offering information and treatment referral, can be reached by calling the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 800-662-4357 or calling the South Suburban Council: 708.647.3333 or www.sscouncil.org

— Linda Searing

A cautionary tale about medical marijuana and opioid deaths

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