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Overdose Deaths Were Up 30% Last Year, Experts Blame Pandemic-Related Isolation

An image of many blue pills without any identifying markers.
California's percentage increase in overdose deaths last year was higher than the national increase.
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Drug overdose deaths in America were up 30% last year, according to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. A reported 93,000 people lost their lives, including almost 70,000 deaths tied to opioids such as Fentanyl.

California reported an even higher 46% uptick in overdose deaths.

Dr. Marvin Seppala, Chief Medical Officer at The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, told KPCC's Airtalk that COVID-19 restrictions had a lot to do with it.

"People being forced into isolation for this past year, unable to have face-to-face peer support meetings, or with family, have really driven an increase in substance use in general, and as a result an increase in addiction and these overdose deaths," Dr. Seppala said.

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One Airtalk listener who called in said there actually were positives for recovery. He entered the pandemic 30 days clean and said time out of work helped him heal.

"Zoom meetings have been absolutely miraculous for me," he said. "I have friends in recovery I never would have met otherwise, all over the world. And anyone who's struggling has that opportunity to look for those Zoom meetings where you may not even have to get out of bed to sit in a meeting and get that recovery."

If you need help, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Helpline is always available at 1-800-622-HELP.