According to the CDC, opioid-related deaths, mainly fueled by the potent drug fentanyl, accounted for about three-quarters of the deaths through April, which counts provisional drug deaths in yearlong blocks. These records take months to compile because drug overdoses typically require local death investigations and toxicology tests. Fentanyl has for years been a significant catalyst in an intensifying U.S. overdose crisis. The nation was reporting fewer than 50,000 fatal overdoses as recently as 2014, and in 2020, the number surged to a record of about 93,330.
Experts believe the top drivers are the growing prevalence of deadly fentanyl in the illicit drug supply and the COVID-19 pandemic, which left many drug users socially isolated and unable to get treatment or other support.