More West Virginians died of drug overdoses in 2020 than in any previous year on record, according to new data showing the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on the addiction crisis.
At least 1,275 West Virginians died of an overdose in 2020 — a 45% increase from the 878 deaths in 2019, according to the preliminary data. And because the data could still be updated, the actual number of deaths is likely higher.
Fatal overdoses in McDowell County more than tripled, while in Logan, Mercer and Boone, deaths were about double what they were the previous year.
May 2020 was the deadliest month for overdoses nationwide, and W.Va. had a fatal overdose rate that was significantly higher than others.
The deaths, according to the data provided by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, were driven primarily by an increase in overdoses linked to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.