CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — A new government report is adding to what has already been called the deadliest year in U.S. history.
Drug overdose deaths soared to a record 93,000 last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. That represents a 29% increase when compared to the 72,000 overdose deaths recorded in 2019.
Lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions isolated those with drug addictions and made treatment harder to get, experts said.
While prescription painkillers once drove the nation’s overdose epidemic, they were supplanted first by heroin and then by fentanyl, a dangerously powerful opioid, in recent years. Fentanyl was developed to treat intense pain from ailments like cancer but has increasingly been sold illicitly and mixed with other drugs.
One couple shared their family’s pain with NewsNationNow.com to raise awareness about drug dealers and their presence on a popular app.
Dr. Laura Berman and her husband Samuel Chapman lost their 16-year-old son to an overdose earlier this year.
“Sammy [their son] was able to buy drugs on Snapchat as easily as he would order a pizza,” said Samuel Chapman. “They were delivered to our home in the middle of the night and were laced with lethal fentanyl without his knowledge.”
Since Sammy’s death, the Chapmans have worked to educate the public about not just opioids, but narcotics laced with lethal substances. They’re also taking on social media companies.
“While we can lobby the social media platforms to let parents protect their children, right now, the ones that house our kids Snapchat, Discord, Instagram, messaging services … they don’t allow parent-monitoring software on. And turns out that Snapchat is sort of the dark web for kids. They believe that because the snaps disappear, they can do anything they want,” said Samuel.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.