Opioid deaths just keep on coming



It’s difficult to know exactly this early into 2024 if 2023 was a year in which opioid deaths continued to climb or if the United States is starting to make progress in its fight to limit these number of deaths.


However, every funeral director in the country has probably had to deal with a family who has lost a loved one to this battle and it is estimated, according to this article, that the United States suffered 111,355 opioid deaths in the provisional 12-months ending in April 2023.  That would compare unfavorably with the number of 110,394 for a 12 month period ending in March 2022 — one year earlier.  According to that article, “The pace of the increase is much slower than it’s been in recent years, especially compared with the steep rise in the early years of the Covid-19 pandemic.”


However, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health, makes this sober comment in the same article, “I was expecting that overdose deaths would go down after the big jump during the Covid pandemic, as we resume our everyday life. . . . So to me, it is very concerning that these numbers remain so elevated.”


A recent study from the University of Minnesota that you can access an article about here states that “During the first two years of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, fatal drug overdose deaths surged, driven primarily by fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine. In 2021, for example, the methamphetamine overdose death rate was double the 2019 rate.”


That study also surmised “While fentanyl is the dominant cause of fatal overdoses in the U.S., overdose deaths involving the non-opioid drugs methamphetamine and cocaine have grown significantly during the past several years.”


Here are some other interesting findings from that University of Minnesota study:

  • Drug overdose deaths increased significantly for all drug types across rural, small-to-medium metro areas, and large metro areas of the U.S.
  • The vast majority of states saw statistically significant increases in rates of fentanyl and methamphetamine overdose deaths (43 and 44 states, respectively). A majority of states also experienced statistically significant increases in cocaine overdose deaths (37 states).
  • Rates of fatal overdoses from prescription opioids climbed significantly in 21 states — a sign of backsliding after recent years of steady or declining rates.


Finally, Colin Planalp, the lead author of the University of Minnesota study made this comment, “While the pandemic surely played a role in America’s worsening opioid crisis, the reality is we were probably already primed for this catastrophe before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19.  The devastation we see in these data on overdose deaths are the grim result of decades of inadequate, ineffective, and often counterproductive drug policies. If the U.S. wants to reverse our decades-long trend of growing drug overdose deaths, we need to act with urgency and replace the strategies that have failed us.”


Funeral Director Daily take:  If America has approximately 3 million deaths, the approximately 111,000 opioid deaths represent about 3.7% of all deaths in America.  And, when you look at the age skew of opioid deaths you begin to realize the damage being done to the younger portion of Americans.



Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

Funeral directors and those others who work on the front-lines of grief care see the brunt of the issues that overdoses and addiction reap on families.  Like a lot of matters, an individual cannot stop this issue by oneself, however, being aware of the problems and giving solid advice to our nation’s youth little by little can help.


If you are a funeral director or other worker in death care, I urge you to take an active role in your community with the youth to offer this good, solid, advice on life and the skills necessary to move forward.


For the past two years I’ve taken the time to mentor, through our public school’s “Freshman Academy” six freshmen per year.  I enjoy the time spent with them, which is done from September through December each year, and I’ve found out that they just want to talk about life. . . . and how to move forward with their lives among all the choices and decisions that they are making at such a young age.  I’ve learned they are great kids, but, even as 15-year old 9th graders, nervous about where life will bring them.  I will also say, that I have enjoyed the experience of getting to know these young adults and am happy to give them someone that they can turn to at any time for advice.


Life just seems more complicated for them then it was for me as a 15-year old.  And, if there is anything we can do as adults who have navigated our paths already to help these young people navigate their paths in the world, we should be willing to do it.  Please think about offering what you can to these young people so they don’t become one of those 111,000 or so deaths per year.


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  1. Nathan Hanson on January 22, 2024 at 9:28 am

    Relationships like the ones you are establishing with your ninth grade contacts are the only real difference we can offer in the face of the western world’s craving for a pain-free existence. Faith in the Savior is what gives substance to real hope for deliverance from the torments of our past and the failures of our present. God bless.

  2. Beacham McDougald on January 22, 2024 at 8:49 am

    To most, those “numbers” are just numbers. To my wife and I; one was our only son.

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