More than 100,000 Americans have died in a single year from drug overdoses, a record total, experts have estimated.
Health officials say the increased use of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, combined with many drug users living in isolation during the pandemic, has led to the never-before-seen number of deaths.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports reveal that fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and 20 to 50 times more potent that heroin.
The drug has surpassed heroin as the cause for the most overdose deaths, claiming 60% of fatalities in the past year.
Overdose deaths in the US have been rising for more than two decades and, according to new data posted Wednesday, jumped nearly 30% in the latest year.
Between May 2020 to April 2021, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated 100,300 Americans had died of drug overdoses.
In comparison, deaths from car crashes, guns, flu and pneumonia were all lower.
President Joe Biden addressed the epidemic in a statement saying: "As we continue to make strides to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot overlook this epidemic of loss, which has touched families and communities across the country."
A final official count has not been released as it can take months to finalise death investigations involving drug fatalities.
The CDC had reported 93,000 deaths, but Robert Anderson, the CDC's chief of mortality statistics said that deaths are likely to surpass 100,000 for the year up until April 2021.
Dr Daniel Ciccarone, a drug policy expert at the University of California, San Francisco said: "2021 is going to be terrible."
Police Lieutenant Jeff Wersal, who leads a regional drug task force in Mankato, Minnesota, echoed these worries saying: "I honestly don't see it getting better, not soon."
Minnesota saw a rise in deaths of 39%, with estimated overdose deaths rising to 1,188 from the reported 858 the previous year.
The CDC saw increases in all but four states - Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey and South Dakota.
Vermont, West Virginia and Kentucky all saw the largest increases in overdose deaths with the data showing rises of 70%, 63% and 55% respectively.