‘A staggering loss of human life’: Oklahoma follows national trend with huge increase in drug-overdose deaths

The CDC report, however, identified another possible culprit: the increasing use of fentanyl, a dangerously powerful opioid that was originally developed as a pain treatment but has become widely available on the black market and is often mixed with other drugs.

In many cases, overdose victims don’t even know they’re taking fentanyl, as dealers use it as a sort of hidden supplement in other drugs, officials said.

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Oklahoma’s increasing death toll appears to be tied primarily to the use of methamphetamine and fentanyl, Dismukes said. If so, the overdose epidemic won’t necessarily subside with the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Only two states, New Hampshire and South Dakota, didn’t see an increase in overdose deaths. Vermont had the largest jump, of about 58%. And Kentucky’s overdose death toll rose 54%.

Nationwide, the CDC estimates that drug overdoses are killing 250 people per day, or one person every five minutes.

“This is a staggering loss of human life,” Brandon Marshall, a Brown University public health researcher who tracks overdose trends, told The Associated Press. The United States was already struggling with drug overdoses, but “COVID has greatly exacerbated the crisis,” he said.

Two of the owners of the company that makes OxyContin acknowledged to a congressional committee on Thursday that the powerful prescription painkiller has played a role in the national opioid crisis, but stopped short of apologizing or admitting wrongdoing as they made a rare appearance in a public forum.


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