Deaths of Michael K. Williams and Fuquan Johnson Show America’s Opioid Epidemic is Far from Over

Michael K Williams arrives for the premiere of “The Public” at the New York Public Library in New York, U.S., April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs/File Photo

The recent drug-related deaths of several high-profile celebrities have renewed attention to the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States.

Emmy-nominated actor, Michael K. Williams, 54, who was best known for his role as Omar Little on “The Wire” and Albert “Chalky” White on the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire,” was found dead of a suspected overdose at his Brooklyn apartment on Monday with what appeared to be heroin on his kitchen table.

Popular Los Angeles comedians Fuquan Johnson, 43, and Enrico Colangeli, 48, were among three people found dead from overdoses at a party Saturday after ingesting cocaine that was laced with fentanyl, the CBS Los Angeles affiliate reported.

Public health experts say that their deaths are among a rising number of overdoses across the country as the US continues to battle an influx of fentanyl-laced street drugs during the pandemic.

Philip Rutherford, Chief Operating Officer at the nonprofit Faces & Voices of Recovery, told Insider that there are no strong data that show more people are currently struggling with substance use disorder, but rather that more people are dying from drug use.

“I think the short version is that we are absolutely seeing more overdoses,” Rutherford said. “I think the sad part is we’re actually not seeing a corresponding change in the amount of substance use disorder. Overdoses are going up, but substance use disorder itself has been a fairly durable number.”

Drug overdoses increased by 29.4% in 2020 over the prior year, according to data from the CDC.

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SOURCE: Insider, Haven Orecchio-Egresitz