Opioids are drugs formulated to replicate the pain-reducing properties of opium. Prescription painkillers like morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone are opioids. Illegal drugs like heroin and illicitly made fentanyl are also opioids. The word “opioid” is derived from the word “opium.”
At least 87,000 drug overdose deaths were reported from October 2019 to September 2020—a 29 percent increase from the year before, according to CDC data reviewed by TheNew York Times. A large portion of the deaths occurred in April and May, when many treatment centers and support groups were shut down, the data reveals. This likely made it very difficult for people to receive naloxene, a medication that reverses opioid overdoses, experts say.
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told the Times that many overdose deaths involve a mix of fentanyl or heroin with stimulants. “Dealers are lacing these non-opioid drugs with cheaper, yet potent, opioids to make a larger profit,” she said. “Someone who’s addicted to a stimulant drug like cocaine or methamphetamine is not tolerant to opioids, which means they are going to be at high risk of overdose if they get a stimulant drug that’s laced with an opioid like fentanyl.”
Opioid-involved overdose deaths rose from 21,088 in 2010 to 47,600 in 2017 and remained steady in 2018 with 46,802 deaths. This was followed by a significant increase in 2019 to 49,860 overdose deaths. The bars are overlaid by lines showing the number of deaths by gender from 1999 to 2019 (Source: CDC WONDER). Figure 4.