U.S. Overdose Deaths Break Records

The year 2020 will go down in history because of COVID-19.

But obscured beneath the notorious novel coronavirus that shuttered the world lurks another cunning enemy. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), an agency of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released shocking preliminary data gathered from December 2019 to December 2020. According to the predicted provisional count, a projected 93,331 people died from a drug overdose in that 12-month time period.

The NCHS obtains its numbers from the National Vital Statistics System and, in this case, “reviewed death certificates to come up with the estimate.” The CDC website explains, “Provisional counts are often incomplete and causes of death may be pending investigation resulting in an underestimate relative to final counts.” It further adds, “Drug overdose deaths are often initially reported with no cause of death (pending investigation), because they require lengthy investigation, including toxicology testing.” So, in order to offset this low estimate, “methods were developed to adjust provisional counts for reporting delays by generating a set of predicted provisional counts.”

To give an idea of the gravity of this data, in 2019, the NCHS reported a predicted provisional count of 72,151 deaths from overdose. In other words, the drug epidemic took 29 percent more lives in the matter of a single year. In 1970, during the heroin craze, there were 7,200 deaths; in 1988, when crack was peaking, there were 9,000 deaths.

Reuters reported that the count for 2020 was “the highest ever recorded.” The Associated Press put it in this sobering way: “The estimate of over 93,000 translates to an average of more than 250 deaths each day, or roughly 11 every hour.”

The data is also broken up by state. This past year saw “drug overdoses [increase] in all but two states, New Hampshire and South Dakota,” with Vermont suffering the greatest increase at 57.6 percent. California, South Carolina, and Kentucky were not far behind at 45.9, 51.9, and 53.7 percent, respectively.


Reasons for the Rise

As is usual nowadays, COVID-19 remains the catalyst, as “lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions isolated those with drug addictions and made treatment harder to get, experts said.”

Substance abusers divulged “that suspensions of evictions and extended unemployment benefits left them with more money than usual.” And what did they do with those extra funds? They did what any addict would do: They spent it on what they were addicted to—drugs.

If the pandemic was the reason, then current “it” drug fentanyl was the route. Reuters described it as “a synthetic opioid that is 80–100 times stronger than morphine, and heroin,” originally designed as a potent painkiller and now appropriated “to boost [the] effects” of illegal drugs. AP concluded from the NCHS report that “fentanyl was involved in more than 60% of the overdose deaths last year.”

One overdose specialist, an associate sociology professor from Syracuse University, was quoted as saying, “Nearly all of this increase is fentanyl contamination in some way. Heroin is contaminated. Cocaine is contaminated. Methamphetamine is contaminated.”

Offered one recovering user, “It’s so easy to pass away from using drugs nowadays, just because of the amount of fentanyl out there. A lot of people in the past were able to relapse and come back. But nowadays, that’s not the case.”


The Antidote

Did you know that medicine has developed an overdose antidote? Narcan, or Naloxone, “blocks the ability of opioids to do what they do at the molecular level” by, in essence, positioning itself as a gatekeeper to the body’s cells. Commonly administered through injection or by nasal spray, it proceeds to stop an overdose in its tracks in “less than 30 seconds” and “lasts for about 45 minutes.”

 The methods surrounding its use are a much-debated controversy. Is the medication an effective weapon for the war on drugs or merely an enabler that acts as an addict’s last-chance safety net?

Yet while research is still ongoing, it would do us good to look at another Antidote. Of Him it is written that He is “the door. If anyone enters by [Him], he will be saved” (John 10:9). He is the true Gatekeeper, the only One who gives complete and absolute “access” (Ephesians 2:18) to righteousness and complete and absolute victory over sin.

This Antidote is Jesus Christ, God the Son, the Son of Man, who “came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) trapped in addiction, abuse, and abject self-destruction.

His method, administered to a fully surrendered heart, is 100 percent successful in every case without question, without doubt, without controversy. As the author of Hebrews puts it, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (9:14). Does not “the love of Christ [compel] us, … that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15)?

Christ saves—not for 45 minutes but for a lifetime. He “[saves] to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). He saves, not as an enabler but as an Equipper.

“This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21); this is “the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it” (35:8). This is “the way, the truth” (John 14:6), “the resurrection and the life” (11:25).

Is someone you know struggling under the chains of addiction? Are you yourself? There is a never-failing Antidote for you. “Get to Know Jesus” through this beautiful introduction to the Savior of the world. His medicine heals for eternity. 

Kris W. Sky
Kris W. Sky is a writer and editor for Amazing Facts International and other online and print publications.
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