Overdose deaths sharply increased in the 12-month period ending August 2020 — a rise that coincided with the dislocating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an analysis released Thursday by the Rockefeller Institute of Government.
The Albany-based think tank analyzed national data from the Centers for Disase Control and Prevention that found a worsening public health crisis of overdoses overlayed with the pandemic, which has brought health and economic hardship to the country.
The preliminary data show 88,296 overdose deaths in a 12-month period that ended last August — a 27 percent increase from a similar period a year ago. The spike is expected to be an unprecedented rise in overdose deaths.
So-called "deaths of despair," including dying by suicide or an overdose, often increase during a broader period of societal upheaval.
The deaths will likely lead to calls for policymakers to address the issue as the pandemic's case load in New York and across the country subsides.
“The mortality data from the CDC is chilling,” said Laura Schultz, the executive director of research at the Rockefeller Institute. “Our researchers have documented the innovative steps taken by substance-use disorder service providers to continue to provide care during the pandemic but this data show the terrible toll taken by the broader forces of isolation and stress created by the public health emergency. We will continue to combine our on-the-ground research with aggregate data analysis so policymakers have the tools they need to understand and address this troubling increase in overdose deaths.”