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Fatal Drug Overdoses Are on the Rise in California

More Americans are dying from drug overdoses than ever before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were an estimated 100,306 fatal overdoses over the 12 months through April 2021 -- the most ever reported in a 12-month period and double the annual number of car accidents and firearm deaths combined.

The record number of deadly overdoses marks a 29% increase from the same period a year earlier and is more than double the number reported as recently as 2014. Public health experts attribute the surge to the proliferation of fentanyl -- a synthetic opioid reported to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine -- as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has isolated many Americans struggling with addiction while reducing their treatment options and care resources.

In California, drug overdose deaths are rising at a faster pace than they are nationwide. There were an estimated 10,585 fatal overdoses in California over the 12 months ending in April 2021, compared to 7,162 over the same period the year prior. The 47.8% increase ranks as the seventh largest of all 46 states that reported an increase in deadly overdoses.

Of all drug classifications identified by the CDC, including synthetic synthetic and semi-synthetic opioids, cocaine, heroin, psychostimulants like methamphetamine, and methadone (a drug used to treat heroin and opioid addiction), synthetic opioids had the largest increase in fatalities in the state, up 119.6% from a year earlier.

The fatal drug overdose rate in California now stands at 26.8 deaths for every 100,000 people, the 22nd lowest among all states. Nationwide, the per capita fatality rate stands at 30.3 per 100,000.

All overdose data used in this story are from the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the CDC. To account for pending investigations and incomplete counts, the numbers reported are estimates calculated by the NCHS. Population-adjusted fatality rates were calculated using population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau's Decennial Census.

RankState1-yr change in fatal overdosesDrug OD deaths, 12 mos. ending April 2021Deaths per 100,000 people, 2021Drug OD deaths, 12 mos. ending April 2020Deaths per 100,000 people 20201Vermont69.9%20932.512319.12West Virginia62.2%1,60789.699155.23Kentucky54.5%2,31951.51,50133.34Louisiana51.6%2,21847.61,46331.45Tennessee50.1%3,58151.82,38534.56Mississippi49.9%63721.542514.47California47.8%10,58526.87,16218.18Alaska46.7%17624.012016.49Kansas45.7%55819.038313.010South Carolina45.4%1,90737.31,31225.611Oregon45.1%94022.264815.312Minnesota38.5%1,18820.885815.013New Mexico37.0%89342.265230.814North Carolina36.9%3,52633.82,57624.715Texas36.4%4,68716.13,43711.816Georgia36.3%2,08619.51,53014.317Washington35.7%1,89224.61,39418.118Nevada35.7%99232.073123.519Virginia35.5%2,26226.21,66919.320Colorado34.6%1,65528.71,23021.321Arkansas33.0%53617.840313.422Indiana32.4%2,48736.71,87827.723Alabama31.4%1,11022.184516.824New York29.3%5,49627.24,25221.025Arizona28.5%2,76838.72,15430.126Nebraska27.9%21110.81658.427Ohio26.6%5,58547.34,41037.428Florida26.2%7,89236.66,25629.029Maine24.2%52838.842531.230Wisconsin21.8%1,59927.11,31322.331Maryland21.0%2,87646.62,37638.532Oklahoma20.2%79820.266416.833Michigan19.3%2,95229.32,47424.634Idaho18.8%29716.125013.635Utah18.5%67420.656917.436Rhode Island17.5%40937.334831.737Wyoming16.9%9716.88314.438Missouri14.6%2,00432.61,74928.439Pennsylvania13.1%5,41041.64,78436.840Illinois12.6%3,60128.13,19725.041North Dakota11.9%12215.710914.042Iowa9.5%42613.438912.243Montana6.6%16114.815113.944Hawaii6.3%26818.425217.345Massachusetts5.8%2,41934.42,28632.546Connecticut4.4%1,40939.11,35037.447New Jersey-1.0%2,91831.42,94831.748Delaware-1.7%45946.446747.249New Hampshire-7.2%37227.040129.150South Dakota-19.8%778.79610.8

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