The number of drug overdose deaths in the United States surpassed 100,000 in 2021, CNN reports.
Last year saw the highest number of drug overdose deaths on record, with two-thirds coming from fentanyl or another synthetic opioid.
Overdose deaths have grown steadily for years but spiked during the Covid pandemic.
Annual deaths in 2021 were nearly 50% higher in 2021 than in 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, the rate of growth slowed somewhat. Overdose deaths increased about 30% between 2019 and 2020 and increased about 15% from 2020 to 2021.
About 14,000 more people died from overdose deaths in 2021 than in 2020.
"This is indeed a continuation of an awful trend. Rates of overdose deaths have been on an upward climb for decades now, increasing at unprecedented rates right before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US," Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told CNN.
But the pandemic recovery isn’t likely to immediately reverse the trend, experts say.
"You won't see a reversal in the same way you saw the acceleration because these drug distribution networks and addiction become embedded in the community. And it's not like they turn off overnight," Katherine Keyes, professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, told CNN.
In 2019, only 10% of more than 20 million people who reported a substance abuse disorder said they had received treatment.
During the pandemic, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that access had gotten even worse.
"This is a devastating milestone in the history of the overdose epidemic in America. When we report numbers, we must remember that each number represents an individual, their families, and their communities," Volkow said. "Compounding this tragedy, we have underused evidence-based treatments already in place that could help many people. We must meet people where they are to prevent overdoses, reduce harm, and connect people to proven treatments to reduce drug use."