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• National data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show an estimated 107,622 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2021, a 15% increase over what was already a record-setting year in 2020.
In a recent tweet, the state’s Republican Party offered a statistic designed to spotlight the national problem.
"Illicit drugs are flowing into the country at an alarming rate," the Aug. 23 tweet said. "Overdoses reached an all-time high in 2021. 2,071 lbs of fentanyl — more than 469 million lethal doses seized in July. More fentanyl has crossed the border in the last two months under Biden than in 2019 under Trump."
In a separate article, we checked the tweet’s assertion about how much fentanyl has crossed the border, finding it Mostly True.
Here, we’ll look at the tweet’s statement that "overdoses reached an all-time high in 2021."
We sought out national figures, since the rest of the tweet referred to the national picture, rather than West VIrginia specifically.
In May 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released overdose figures for 2021 and estimated there were 107,622 drug overdose deaths in the United States for the year.
Although these figures are provisional and subject to revision, the agency said that this represented a 15% increase in overdose deaths nationwide compared with 2020, and followed a record-setting increase in 2020 of 30%. The increase in 2021 was more modest, but still significant, the agency said.
Before 2020, the annual number of overdose deaths had never exceeded 71,000 nationally, federal data shows. The number has risen almost every year since 1999, when there were fewer than 20,000 overdose deaths.
Of the 107,622 drug overdose deaths in 2021, the CDC reported that 71,238 were from synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl; 32,856 were from psychostimulants such as methamphetamine; 24,538 were from cocaine; and 13,503 were from naturally derived opioids.
Jonathan Caulkins, a drug policy researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, told PolitiFact West Virginia that the tweet’s characterization of the overdose data as record-setting is "100% accurate."
"All data have nuance and uncertainty, but there is no plausible way that such nuance could change the basic headline," Caulkins said. "Alas, the already spectacularly horrible situation has indeed become much worse in 2021 than before."
The West Virginia Republican Party said "overdoses reached an all-time high in 2021"
National data from the CDC supports this: There were an estimated 107,622 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2021, a 15% increase over what was already a record-setting year in 2020.
We rate the statement True.
West Virginia Republican Party, tweet, Aug. 23, 2022
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "U.S. Overdose Deaths In 2021 Increased Half as Much as in 2020 – But Are Still Up 15%," May 11, 2022
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Death Rate Maps & Graphs," accessed Oct. 12, 2022
National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Overdose Death Rates," accessed Oct. 12, 2022
PolitiFact, "Fact-checking how much fentanyl is coming into the U.S.," Oct. 3, 2022
Email interview with Jonathan Caulkins, drug policy researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, Sep. 15, 2022
Email interview with John Findlay, executive director of the West Virginia Republican Party, Sept. 14, 2022
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