Drug overdose deaths in the United States hit record highs in 2021, primarily due to an increase in synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, a vast majority of which is trafficked from Mexico across the southwest U.S. border.
According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 108,000 people appear to have died of drug overdoses in 2021. That’s a nearly 15 percent increase in drug-related deaths compared to 2020.
Overdose deaths have been on the rise in the United States since the 1970s but spiked significantly throughout the Covid-19 pandemic during government-mandated lockdowns. Since 2019, drug overdose deaths, especially due to mixes created with powdery, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and stimulants such as methamphetamine, have spiked nearly 50 percent.
In 2020, approximately 58,000 deaths were recorded involving synthetic opioids, mostly fentanyl. By 2021, that number rose to 71,000.
In South Texas ports of entry alone, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 588 pounds of fentanyl in the 2021 fiscal year, a 1,066 percent increase since FY2020.
Since the beginning of FY2022 in October, border officials have seized roughly 340,000 pounds of illicit drugs at the border. Approximately 5,310 pounds of that is fentanyl and 88,009 is meth.
As a result, states, many of which share borders with Mexico, reported a surging number of fentanyl-related hospital visits and deaths in 2021. Even states such as Kansas and Maine, which are hundreds to thousands of miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border, are grappling with record-high overdose deaths as a result of smuggled drugs manufactured in Northern Mexico labs.
Former President Donald Trump reportedly proposed launching missiles at these labs, which are the source for many of the drugs present in U.S. overdose deaths, in 2020 but his idea to wipe out the cartels responsible for large swaths of drug trafficking was rejected by then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper who “raised various objections.”
“Mr. Trump said he would just say that the United States had not conducted the strike, Mr. Esper recounts, writing that he would have thought it was a joke had he not been staring Mr. Trump in the face,” The New York Times reported.