WACO, Texas — We are now almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new analysis shows there's a bigger killer in the United States.
According to the CDC, fentanyl overdoses have killed more people aged 18 to 45 since 2020 than COVID, car accidents, and even suicides.
"The fentanyl increased of death really started to rise quite abruptly in 2016 and just went up and up and up until 2020 and 2021 we also expect to be really bad," Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse Dr. Nora Volkow told 25 News.
The country lost 37,208 people during 2020 and 41,587 people just this year between the ages of 18 and 45.
Data from Families Against Fentanyl suggests that one person dies from an overdose every 8.5 minutes.
"It's like we are loading an airplane full of college kids and crashing it every day," FAF Founder James Rauh said. "It's affected all class, all races. It started out as a white man's drug because it was affecting the heroin market. Now it's disproportionately affecting the black community. It's killing all of us. I don't see anyone that's immune to this."
The state of Texas is also not immune. Earlier this month, the Texas Department of Public Safety said its officers seized enough of the drug to equal more than 36 million lethal doses.
"People don't necessarily know about fentanyl," Dr. Volkow said. "They actually don't realize how extraordinarily dangerous it is. There's a high chance the drugs you're buying may be contaminated."
Street drugs including heroin, cocaine, and even marijuana have all been reported to have traces of fentanyl.
Experts say the stress of the pandemic has led more people to use these types of drugs, as well as the holidays which can be hard for those struggling with addiction.
"Anxiety, grief, everything drives this," Rauh said. "That social pressure goes up and you start getting little cracks in society. This poisons prevalence will make itself known during those types of things."