A record number of people have died of drug overdoses during the pandemic, CDC says

More than 83,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending June 2020, the most ever recorded in a single year, according to data from the CDC

Five things to know: 

  1. More than 20 million Americans have some sort of substance use disorder, but there are only 4,400 actively practicing certified addiction specialist physicians in the U.S., according to the American Society of Medicine, The Hill reported.

  2. Much of the U.S. still lacks access to medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders, though medication-assisted treatment is considered the gold standard in addiction care, according to The Hill. Among the 1.6 million people in 2019 who had an opioid use disorder, only 18 percent received medication-assisted treatment, according to a survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration cited by The Hill.

  3. Three drugs — buprenorphine, naltrexone and methadone — have been approved by the FDA to treat opioid use disorder by suppressing cravings and reducing or eliminating withdrawal symptoms, The Hill reported. Only 42 percent of substance use treatment facilities offered at least one of the drugs in 2018, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office released in December.

  4. Forty percent of U.S. counties have no providers who can prescribe buprenorphine, according to The Hill. A waiver requires providers to undergo eight hours of training to prescribe the drug, which is one of the most effective drugs for reducing the risk of overdose deaths. Only about 7 percent of providers in the U.S. have obtained that waiver, which allows them to prescribe buprenorphine to 275 patients per year, The Hill reported.

  5. Weekly counts of all drug and opioid overdoses increased by 45 percent from mid-April to October 2020 compared to the same weeks in 2019, The Hill reported. Anxiety, stress, depression and isolation caused by the pandemic, combined with a lack of treatment resources, have caused many people to relapse in their substance use disorder, addiction experts told USA Today. 

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