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US drug overdose deaths reach another record high as deaths from fentanyl surge

A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) chemist checks confiscated powder containing fentanyl at the DEA Northeast Regional Laboratory on October 8, 2019 in New York. - According to US government data, about 32,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2018. That accounts for 46 percent of all fatal overdoses. Fentanyl, a powerful painkiller approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for a range of conditions, has been central to the American opioid crisis which began in the late 1990s. (Photo by Don EMMERT / AFP) (Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNN) — Annual drug overdose deaths have reached another record high in the United States, as deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids surge to unprecedented levels.

An estimated 105,752 people died of a drug overdose in the 12-month period ending October 2021, according to provisional data published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

About two-thirds of those deaths involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, a stronger and faster-acting drug than natural opiates.

Synthetic opioids are driving much of the increase. The number of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids has nearly doubled over the past two years, from about 35,000 deaths in the 12-month period ending October 2019 to more than 69,000 in October 2021.

CDC data first indicated that overdose deaths from any drug surpassed 100,000 annually in data through April 2021. This is the seventh month in a row that estimates for the latest 12-month period have stayed above this level.

Nationwide, about 15,000 more people died of drug overdoses than in the previous year, a 16% increase.

Overdose deaths were up in all but four states compared to a year earlier, the provisional CDC data shows. New Hampshire, Hawaii and Delaware and Wyoming each saw year-over-year declines. Alaska had the largest annual increase in overdose deaths — up 78% from October 2020.

Along with synthetic opioids, the new federal data shows that overdose deaths from methamphetamine and other psychostimulants also increased significantly, up nearly 40% from the year before. They accounted for about 30% of all overdose deaths in the latest 12-month period.