(WTNH) — More than 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses during a 12-month period from April 2020 to April 2021, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s a grim milestone that reveals a growing epidemic, including here in Connecticut. 

RELATED: Drug overdoses killed 100,000 in 1 year, officials say

TJ Aitken of Manchester remembers the day he stepped into the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery Center (CCAR) in Hartford.

“I walked through that door and I was 30 days in recovery and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life,” Aitken said. 

The 27-year-old discovered opiates at a young age after an injury. It led to an addiction and time in prison. Then, five years ago, he sought help.

“It was like this Godsend,” Aitken said. 

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for others facing substance abuse, with the problem only getting worse.

According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the state saw 1,378 overdose deaths in 2020, a 15 percent increase from 2019 when there were 1,202. In both years, the majority took place in New Haven County. 

Kara Sepulveda of the Quinnipiack Valley Health District said the COVID-19 pandemic played a factor in the spike.

“Nobody was able to monitor their wellbeing and make sure that they didn’t overdose,” Sepulveda said.

She said more and more drugs are getting mixed with fentanyl, especially those found on the streets. This includes counterfeit pills of common prescription medication like Adderall or Xanax. 

“I definitely have lost a lot of friends and people that I love to this disease,” Aitken said. 

As for Aitken, he’s thankful he took that first step and wants those still struggling to know that with a little support they too can get better.

“Recovery gave me the life that I never thought I was capable of,” Aitken said. 

Help is out there. 

Through a state grant, The Quinnipiack Valley Health District and The New Haven Health Department have developed a partnership to combat the opioid crisis. You can find details on treatment, recovery, and more by clicking here.