Drug overdose deaths climbed during early months of pandemic

The U.S. drug overdose death toll climbed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to preliminary data from the CDC.

In statistics released Wednesday, the CDC said more than 87,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in the 12-month period that started in October 2019 and ended in September 2020.

The largest increases in drug overdose deaths occurred in the 12-month periods that ended in April and May 2020, months early in the pandemic when many states had some form of shutdown in place.

Overall, the preliminary data found a 29 percent increase in overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending in September 2020, when compared to the year period ending in September 2019.

What this means: The surge in drug overdose deaths represents a setback after overdose fatalities fell slightly in 2018 for the first time in decades. But the COVID-19 pandemic has overshadowed the issue, drawing resources away from addressing drug use and toward the pandemic.