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Overdose Deaths In Philadelphia Reach 2nd-Highest Number Ever Recorded In 2020

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The coronavirus pandemic hasn't stopped another epidemic ravaging Philadelphia. The city said Thursday that 1,214 people died from drug overdoses in Philadelphia in 2020.

According to the city, it's the second-highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in Philly. In 2017, 1,217 people died from overdoses.

An overwhelming majority (81%) of those deaths involved fentanyl.

"While the world has been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, drug overdoses continue to wreak havoc across our city," Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said. "Increasingly, fentanyl is being found in all types of illegal drugs, exposing individuals who are not familiar with opioids to this deadly drug. This is why we continue to stress that anyone using any of these substances should never use alone, should have naloxone nearby, and use fentanyl test strips regularly."

The city said overdose deaths hit Black people the hardest last year. According to the city, overdose deaths among the city's Black residents increased 29% last year.

Before 2020, the city said overdose deaths were highest among white people, but overdose deaths among white people decreased 10% last year.

The highest overdose age range in the city last year was among people ages 55 and 64 with men seeing a 26% increase in overdose death rates.

"As the CHART report shows, responding to the drug overdose crisis continues to be as urgent as ever," Noelle Foizen, executive director of the city's Opioid Response Unit (ORU), said. "That is why we have all hands on deck from many city departments, all working as one team under the same strategy. The ORU is a coordinated command group that ensures that the city's response to the opioid crisis will be efficient in order to save lives, promote the healing of communities and break the cycle of the opioid epidemic."

To read the city's full report, click here.

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