RICHMOND, Va. - A newly released report from the Virginia Department of Health shows an overall increase in fatal drug overdoses in 2021.
The fourth-quarter report shows 2,656 total overdose deaths in 2021, a 15% increase from 2020. Synthetic fentanyl was reported as contributing to the most deaths, with 2,033 deaths recorded. Cocaine proved the second most common contributor to drug overdoses in Virginia in 2021, with 801 deaths reported versus the 650 reported in 2020.
The opioid crisis has come to the forefront of the drug conversation during the Biden administration. The CDC reported a 28.5% increase in overall drug overdoses from 2020 to 2021. Opioid overdoses also saw a nearly 26% increase from 2020 to 2021 nationally, with 75,673 total opioid overdose deaths reported in 2021, according to the CDC.
Most recently, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) established May 10 as "National Fentanyl Awareness Day" in an effort to bring additional attention to fentanyl deaths across the US.
"Fentanyl is everywhere. From large metropolitan areas to rural America, no community is safe from this poison. We must take every opportunity to spread the word to prevent the fentanyl-related overdoses claiming scores of American lives every day," said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram in a statement.
GOP lawmakers have also been putting pressure on the Biden administration to address the fentanyl crisis, specifically at the southern border. A hundred Republican lawmakers previously sent President Biden a letter urging him to permanently label fentanyl-related drugs as schedule one substances.
"Fentanyl and fentanyl related substances are fueling the overdose epidemic, killing 64,178 Americans between May 2020 and April 2021 and making up 64% of total U.S. overdose deaths," the letter said.
Approximately 10,586 pounds of fentanyl were seized at the southern border in 2021, with US Customs and Border Patrol reporting a "substantial increase" in fentanyl seizures as of January.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.