Drug Overdoses

The number of preventable deaths in the United States increased 11.9% in 2021 to 224,935, an all-time high. A 17.6% increase in drug overdose deaths helped drive this record high. A total of 98,268 people died from drug overdoses in 2021, also an all-time high.

Many Americans are familiar with the opioid epidemic headlines dominating the news. A likely byproduct of the overall disruptions and stress induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, preventable opioid overdose deaths increased 41% in 2020 and another 18% in 2021. The 35- to 44-year age group is experiencing the most opioid overdose deaths – 20,137 – a 20% increase from 2020, and a 73% increase since 2019. Currently, 71% of preventable opioid deaths occur among those ages 25 to 54, and the number of deaths among individuals 55 and older is growing rapidly. Few opioid deaths occur among children younger than 15.

Seven out of 10 preventable opioid overdose death victims are male, 53,992 compared to 21,793 female deaths in 2021. However, since 1999, female opioid overdose deaths have increased at a faster pace than male deaths – 1,608% for females versus 1,076% for males. Visit the data details tab to explore more trends by drug type, age, and sex.

It is estimated that the economic cost of opioid use disorder and fatal opioid overdose in 2017 was $150 billion. In addition, non-economic costs of $871 billion is estimated due to reduced quality of life from opioid use disorder and the value of life lost due to fatal opioid overdoses.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Multiple Cause of Death 1999-2021 on CDC WONDER Online Database. Data from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2021, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program.

Florence, C., Luo, F., & Rice, K. (2021). The economic burden of opioid use disorder and fatal opioid overdose in the United States, 2017. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 218 (2021). Accessed on line on 1/14/2021.

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