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Overdose Death Rates

Revised September 2017

The U.S. government does not track death rates for every drug. However, the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does collect information on many of the more commonly used drugs. The CDC also has a searchable database, called CDC Wonder.

See captionDrugs Involved in U.S. Overdose Deaths - Among the more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2016, the sharpest increase occurred among deaths related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (synthetic opioids) with over 20,000 overdose deaths. Source: CDC WONDER
See captionTotal U.S. Drug Deaths - More than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids--nearly double in a decade. Source: CDC WONDER
National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from All Drugs. ​National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from All Drugs. The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving all drugs from 2002 to 2015. The chart is overlayed by a line graph showing the number of deaths of females and males. From 2002 to 2015 there was a 2.2-fold increase in the total number of deaths.
National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Opioid Drugs. ​National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Opioid Drugs. The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving opioid drugs from 2002 to 2015. Included in this number are opioid analgesics, along with heroin and illicit synthetic opioids. The chart is overlayed by a line graph showing the number of deaths of females and males. From 2002 to 2015 there was a 2.8-fold increase in the total number of deaths.
National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers (excluding non-methadone synthetics). ​National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers (excluding non-methadone synthetics). The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving opioid pain relievers (excluding non-methadone synthetics) from 2002 to 2015. Non-methadone synthetics is a category dominated by illicit fentanyl, and has been excluded to more accurately reflect deaths from prescription opioids. The chart is overlayed by a line graph showing the number of deaths of females and males. From 2002 to 2011 there was a 1.9-fold increase in the total number of deaths, but it has remained relatively stable since then.
National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Heroin. ​National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Heroin. The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving heroin from 2002 to 2015. The chart is overlayed by a line graph showing the number of deaths of females and males. From 2002 to 2015 there was a 6.2-fold increase in the total number of deaths.
National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Heroin and Non-Methadone Synthetics. ​National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Heroin and Non-Methadone Synthetics. The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving heroin and non-methadone synthetics from 2002 to 2015. The latter category is dominated by illicit fentanyl overdose; when combined with heroin, these numbers capture illicit opioid deaths. The chart is overlayed by a line graph showing the number of deaths of females and males. From 2002 to 2015 there was a 5.9-fold increase in the total number of deaths.
National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Benzodiazepines.. ​National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Benzodiazepines. The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines from 2002 to 2015.  The chart is overlayed by a line graph showing the number of deaths of females and males. From 2002 to 2015 there was a 4.3-fold increase in the total number of deaths.
National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Cocaine. ​National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Cocaine. The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving cocaine from 2002 to 2015.  The chart is overlayed by a line graph showing the number of deaths of females and males. From the lowest number in 2010 to 2015, there’s been a 1.6-fold increase in the total number of deaths.
National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Cocaine, with and without opioids. ​National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Cocaine, with and without opioids. The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving cocaine from 2002 to 2015, with the red line representing the number of cocaine deaths that also involved opioids, and the purple line representing cocaine deaths that did not involve opioids. These categories were equal in 2010. Since then, deaths involving both cocaine and opioids have more than doubled, while cocaine deaths not involving opioids have increased by only nine percent.
National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Benzodiazepines, with and without opioids. ​National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Benzodiazepines, with and without opioids. The benzodiazepines from 2002 to 2015, with the red line representing the number of benzodiazepine deaths that also involved opioids, and the purple line representing benzodiazepine deaths that did not involve opioids. From 2002-2015, benzodiazepine deaths involving opioids increased two fold more than those not involving opioids.

This page was last updated September 2017

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This Is NIDA: Opioids

This Is NIDA: Opioids

The National Institute on Drug Abuse's research-based, informative video series "This Is NIDA," addresses the topic of OPIOIDS.