While news coverage of United States' opioid epidemic has taken a backseat to the coronavirus this year, new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecast a grim year for fatal overdoses.
During the first three months of 2020, drug overdose deaths rose 10%, according to preliminary estimates released by the CDC on Wednesday.
Compared to the same period last year, when there were 16,682 overdose deaths, 19,416 Americans died of drug overdoses between January and March of 2020.
In total, the CDC estimates that there will be more than 75,500 fatal overdoses by the end of the year.
White men between the ages of 25 and 64 were more likely to die of drug overdoses than other demographics.
The data are considered preliminary because drug overdose deaths often require lengthy investigations.
When fatal overdoses occur, coroners and medical examiners may initially label death certificates "pending investigation" or "unknown" for the cause of death, according to the agency, and preliminary counts often underestimate the actual number of deaths.
Still, the early data does not paint a full picture of how the pandemic will affect drug overdose fatalities. For many Americans, the pandemic is synonymous with social isolation, financial stress and job loss, medical concerns or deaths among family and friends.
Americans have increasingly reported feeling depressed and anxious since the pandemic began, both of which can be risk factors for substance use.
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