NEW YORK - An estimated 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in one year, a never-before-seen milestone that health officials say is tied to the COVID-19 pandemic and a more dangerous drug supply.
Vic Ciappa lost his daughter, Natalie, to a heroin overdose in 2008.
"She was a brilliant kid, a beautiful kid, a kid that I didn't really think could get into any kind of trouble. Therein lies the problem," Ciappa told FOX 5 NY.
Thirteen years later, he’s still sharing her story to prevent it from happening to anyone else.
"I think it's really difficult to beat your addiction with everything we're going through right now," Ciappa added.
Federal officials believe the surge in overdoses is tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
"More people were using drugs alone, which is a risk factor for overdose death, and a lot of people experienced psychological distress, bereavement, and other stressors," said Katherine Keyes, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University.
Fatalities were also driven by fentanyl: A synthetic opioid one-hundred times more potent than heroin.
"Fentanyl began to be adulterated into the opioid supply starting in about 2015 and 2016," Keyes said.
33-year-old Kevin Alter, who spent twelve years of his life battling addiction, says the stigma of walking into a building and asking for help often prevents people from getting treatment sooner.
"When it comes to addiction, all common sense, and intelligence just kind of goes out the window."
Alter’s online recovery blog called "The Addicts Diary," has inspired millions to talk about their own battles with substance abuse.
He says knowing you’re not alone is one of the first steps.
"I just want people to know that recovery is possible."