The number of fatal drug overdoses jumped 15% in 2021 to more than 107,000, overtaking the previous record set last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Wednesday.

The provisional 2021 data were gleaned from death certificates containing at least one specific drug. The synthetic opioid fentanyl drove up overdoses more than any other drug, leading to more than 71,000 deaths, up 23% from the year before. Fatal overdoses linked to cocaine increased by 23% in 2021, while deaths due to methamphetamine overdoses grew by 34%.

“It is unacceptable that we are losing a life to overdoses every five minutes around the clock,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The CDC previously reported a 30% increase in the number of fatal overdoses in 2020, representing a record at that point of 93,000 deaths. Opioids, usually fentanyl or other illegal synthetic drugs, accounted for most of the overdose deaths in 2019 and 2020, making up 72.9% of 2020 deaths, up from 70.6% in 2019.


The burden of overdose-related deaths in 2021 was not felt evenly across the United States. For example, Alaska saw the sharpest increase in fatal overdoses, with a jump of more than 75%. Hawaii, meanwhile, saw overdose deaths drop by around 1.8%.

The overdose epidemic was made worse by the pandemic, which required people early on to quarantine and maintain distance from others, leading to feelings of isolation and despair. The strict restrictions on movement that were established in early 2020 further limited treatment options for people in recovery.