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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
Total U.S. Drug DeathsTotal 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

* Provisional counts for 2016 are based on data available for analysis as of 8/2017. Counts through 2015 are based on final annual data.

 

Opioid involvement in cocaine overdose National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths Involving 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.
Number of Deaths Involving Opioid DrugsNational Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths Involving 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.
Number of Deaths Involving Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers(excluding non-methadone synthetics)National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths Involving 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.
Number of Deaths Involving HeroinNational Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths Involving 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.
Number of Deaths Involving Heroin and Non-Methadone Synthetics (captures illicit opioids)National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths Involving 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.
Number of Deaths Involving BenzodiazepinesNational Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths Involving 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.
Number of Deaths Involving CocaineNational Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths Involving 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.
Opioid involvement in cocaine overdose National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths Involving 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.
Opioid involvement in benzodiazepine overdose National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths Involving 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.

The figures above are bar charts showing the number of U.S. overdose deaths involving all drugs, opioid drugs, opioid analgesics (excluding non-methadone synthetic, the category dominated by illicit fentanyl), heroin, heroin and non-methadone synthetics (to capture illicit opioids), benzodiazepines, or cocaine from 2002 to 2015. The charts are overlayed by line graphs showing the number of deaths by males and females. The highest rise was seen for deaths involving heroin, with a 6.2-fold increase from 2002 to 2015. The final two charts show the numbers of cocaine and benzodiazepine deaths that also involved an opioid; overdoses on these drug combinations have increased by nearly 2- and 5- fold respectively. These categories are not mutually exclusive and therefore cannot be summed.

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.