DPA Statement on New CDC Data: Increase in Overdose Deaths in 2019 Raises Red Flag for 2020 Amid COVID-19

Press Release July 17, 2020
Media Contact

Matt Sutton 212-613-8026
[email protected]

New York, NY – In response to new preliminary CDC data showing an increase in drug overdose deaths in 2019, Sheila Vakharia, PhD, Deputy Director of the Department of Research & Academic Engagement for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), released the following statement:
“While the increase in overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2019 is devastating, it is not at all surprising, and there is reason to believe that these deaths will continue to climb in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has increased isolation, disrupted the drug supply and reduced access to harm reduction and treatment supports.
Last year, as legislators tried to do a victory lap over a 4.5% decrease in overdose deaths from the year prior, we warned that the data did not account for the fact that there were states where overdoses continued to climb, nor did data make clear the racial and other demographic discrepancies or the troubling increases in stimulant overdoses in recent years. This is still true today. Now, not only are these communities hit even harder by increased overdose deaths, but they have also been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, further revealing the health inequities in the system.
More than ever, it is essential that we double-down on overdose prevention approaches that work, as outlined by DPA’s COVID-19 policy recommendations, including improving substance use disorder treatment and increased access to harm reduction services – such as keeping loosened regulations for methadone and buprenorphine in place, allowing overdose prevention sites to legally open and allocating federal funding towards syringe exchange and naloxone access.”
For DPA’s full COVID-19 policy recommendations, visit drugpolicy.org/COVID19.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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