The numbers, like the picture, are downright scary. Completely indifferent people on the streets, dead drivers in cars parked at intersections, drunk mothers picking up their children from kindergarten. What the United States has been experiencing for years has not been classified as a pandemic for nothing. This isn’t just a big drug problem, it’s a worst-case scenario. Last year alone, 107,000 American citizens – almost double the number of residents of St. Pölten – died from opioid overdoses. For comparison: in 1968, the heyday of weed-smoking hippies, “only” 5,033 drug users died of overdose.
Many addicts use synthetic fentanyl, which is smuggled illegally across the Mexican border. In every other death it was proven that fentanyl had been consumed. Five percent of infants in West Virginia experienced withdrawal symptoms after birth due to drug abuse by their mothers. As of early 2023, fentanyl abuse was considered the leading cause of death among Americans aged 18 to 49.
Already in 2016, more than 64,000 people in the United States died from overdoses (including 42,249 from opioids) – more than from car accidents and weapons over the same period. According to the US CDC, the number of victims increased by ten percent in 2017 compared to the previous year, to 72,287. The previous high was reached three years ago with 93,331 deaths, a 30 percent increase from 2019. Overall, more than 450,000 people died from opioids in the United States between the start of the pandemic and 2020.
US President Joe Biden had announced in February this year that he would tighten penalties for drug dealers as well as border controls with Mexico. In March, over-the-counter sale of the antidote Narcan was approved in the form of a nasal spray. It is now available for purchase at gas stations, supermarkets, and drugstores.