Deaths from drug overdoses in the United States continued rising to record-breaking levels in 2021, nearing 108,000, according to preliminary new data published on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Iran Press/America: New provisional data released by the US federal government estimates that nearly 108,000 people died from drug overdoses from January to December 2021.

"That's about a 15% increase from the number of deaths in 2020," says Farida Ahmad, a research scientist with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. Nearly 94,000 died in 2020.

The year-to-year rise in overdose deaths was much higher from 2019 to 2020, jumping by a historic 30%. While the rise in deaths slowed down in 2021, the total number of deaths is still the highest annual overdose deaths ever recorded in the US.

"Over 80,000 of those deaths involved opioids, which was about a 15% increase from last year," says Ahmad.

And more than 71,000 of all opioid-related deaths involved illegally manufactured fentanyl, which in recent years has been mixed in with a range of illicit drugs.

"These past three years we have seen an increase of contamination of other illicit drugs with fentanyl, be it cocaine, be methamphetamine, and more recently, illicit prescription drugs," says Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

This has put a bigger population of drug users at risk of overdoses, she adds. "In many instances, these may be people that take just one pill and they get that contaminated pill and they can die."

That includes teenagers, she adds, who have until recently been less likely to die from an overdose. 

A recent study showed that for the first time in a decade, the number of American teens who died from overdoses rose in 2020.