New CDC data reveals more than 93,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses in 2020, highest toll ever in a given year


Washington (July 14, 2021) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Commission on Synthetic Opioid Trafficking, released the following statement after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today that deaths from drug overdoses have skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic. In new data released today, the CDC reports that more than 93,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses in 2020, the highest toll ever in a given year. Prior state data showed that in 2020, fentanyl was involved in nine out of ten overdose deaths in Massachusetts.


“The coronavirus pandemic was not the only public health emergency that devastated our country last year,” said Senator Markey. “The opioid epidemic, fueled by fentanyl, took lives and livelihoods at a historic level. We need a national treatment plan for the opioid epidemic. We must prevent dependence and addiction before they take hold, break down barriers to effective treatment, and stop the flow of fentanyl across our borders. We must also maintain pandemic flexibilities afforded to behavioral health providers, including on the number of patients a provider can treat with medication assisted treatment, mainstreaming mental and behavioralhealth care, and addressing underlying factors in substance use, such as poverty and joblessness. The American Rescue Plan provided billions in additional funding to address the addiction and mental health crisis exacerbated by COVID-19, but Congress must pass smart policy to not only keep essential and lifesaving programs afloat, but to expand access to treatment across Massachusetts and our country and reduce the importation of illicit fentanyl.”


Senator Markey is a Congressional leader in the effort to combat the opioid crisis. He has passed several pieces of legislation to fund and expand opioid addiction prevention and treatment programs, as well as introduced legislation mandating education on safe prescribing for any prescriber of opioid medication. He succeeded in getting the Food and Drug Administration to agree to his request to reassess the way it considers the risks of addiction and misuse when it evaluates the safety of new opioids. In April, Senator Markey led Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in introducing the Support, Treatment, and Overdose Prevention (STOP) of Fentanyl Act to combat the fentanyl overdose crisis.  Senator Markey also recently secured provisions in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee mark-up of the Strategic Competition Act of 2021 that would increase oversight of United States government efforts to combat the illicit fentanyl and opioid trade originating from the People’s Republic of China.