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Aug 31, 2021
10 Surprising Stats about Drug Overdoses

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day, the world’s largest campaign to end drug overdose.

The campaign started in Melbourne, Australia, 20 years ago as a way to not only educate people about the risk of overdose, but also to remember those who have died and acknowledge the pain and grief of family and friends.

All of this has become even more important during the pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fatal drug overdoses have increased dramatically in the U.S. since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic in March of 2020.

To shed more light on the expanding drug epidemic both in the United States and in the world at large, we scoured the web for some of the most surprising statistics related to overdoses. Read them below.

1. Across the globe, about a half million people die of drug overdoses each year, according to the WHO. About 70% of the deaths are related to opioids. (Source: The WHO)

2. In the U.S., drug overdose deaths hit a record 93,000 in 2020, a 29% increase from the previous high of 72,000 in 2019. (Source: CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics)

3. Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl were involved in more than half of the overdose deaths in the U.S., but there was also a 46% increase in deaths from stimulants, such as methamphetamines, and a 38% increase in deaths from cocaine overdoses. (Source: Shatterproof)

4. Fentanyl is used to treat severe pain, particularly in patients with advanced cancer. But its danger comes from its potency – it’s 50-to-100 times more potent than morphine. (Source: CDC)

5. In the U.S., about 1 in 20 patients who are treated for a nonfatal opioid overdose in an emergency department die within one year of their visit; many die within two days. (Source: The National Institute on Drug Abuse.)

6. Prescriptions for Naloxone, which can temporarily reverse opioid overdose, dropped nearly 30% during the pandemic, an indication that many people are not getting the help they need. (Source: HCPLive.com)

7. Mental illness can contribute to substance use disorders, and substance abuse and addiction can contribute to the development of mental illness. About half of people who have one condition also have the other. This high rate of comorbidity calls for a comprehensive, whole-person health approach to treatment. (Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse)

8. A combination of medication and behavioral therapy can successfully treat substance abuse disorders. Research shows that the most cost-effective treatment for people who visit the emergency department for opioid addiction is buprenorphine, a drug used to reduce cravings and withdrawal. (Source: YaleNews)

9. In 2018, Cigna set a goal to reduce overdoses among our customers in targeted communities by 25% in 2021. We achieved an 18% decrease in 2020 are on track to meeting our target, but the impact from the pandemic may affect our ability to do so. (Source: Cigna 2020 Corporate Responsibility Report)

10. Cigna has also leveraged dental and pharmacy data to manage opioid prescriptions in teenagers who have their wisdom teeth removed. A three-year analysis showed a 23% dosage reduction in opioid prescriptions and a 9% reduction in the overall number of opioid prescriptions. (Source: Cigna Research)

“Because of the impact of COVID-19, it’s incumbent upon us to talk about this topic now more than ever,” said Terri Cox Glassen, MN, RN Cigna’s overdose reduction strategy lead. “There is a correlation between loneliness, overdose and resilience. The loneliness that many people are experiencing during the pandemic can fuel increased substance use. Resilience is needed to overcome addiction and transition into recovery.”

In the video below, Dr. Karl Sieg, medical director for behavioral health at Cigna, shares questions you may ask friends or loved ones to help identify if substance use may be an issue to be concerned about.

Cigna Substance Abuse Tool Kits

Substance use can have a devastating impact on physical, behavioral, and emotional well-being. Help begins with knowledge.

Click here for resources to help prevent and manage addiction.