According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 71,000 people died from drug overdoses last year, up from 67,000 in 2018.
Bryce Pardo, a drug policy researcher at the Rand Corporation, said one factor is the drugs themselves.
“You can see that there are declines in heroin and prescription opioid overdoses,” Pardo said. “However, there’s an increased year over year increase in synthetic opioid overdose deaths.”
Synthetic opioids like Fentanyl can be deadly when mixed with other drugs. Experts say even regular users can miscalculate the dose.
Pardo said it's increasingly showing not just in heroin, but in stimulants like cocaine. Some 36,500 overdoses in 2019 were linked to synthetic opioids. There are signs that overdoses are increasing since coronavirus-related lock downs began in March, followed by millions of job losses.
Below is a 12-month provisional number of drug overdose deaths in the United States, provided by the CDC:
Pardo said the phenomenon of social distancing with the deteriorating of the economy is putting pressures on individuals who are in recovery. Lockdowns have also limited access to in-person addiction treatment services.
In response, regulatory agencies have made it easier for those in recovery to get help at home.
But for people still using, it’s now harder to know exactly what they’re getting.
"It also causes certain disruptions in supply so if you're trying to get heroin from a trusted dealer and the dealer is no longer in, he can't find that individual anymore," Pardo said.