Drug Overdoses

In addition to the 350,831 people who died directly from COVID-19 in 2020, the disruptions and stress resulting from the pandemic contributed to many additional deaths. Preventable drug overdose deaths increased 34.4% in 2020, from 62,172 in 2019. In 2020, 83,558 people died from preventable drug overdoses – an increase of 649% since 1999. These deaths represent 91% of the total 91,799 drug overdose deaths in the United States, which also include suicide, homicide, and undetermined intents.

Because Injury Facts focuses on preventable injury statistics, this page concentrates on preventable drug overdose trends. The interactive chart analyzes preventable drug overdose deaths by default. However, users can analyze either preventable or all injury intents. To analyze total drug deaths, select “All” in the intent field. When comparing drug overdose deaths to the other preventable causes of death data in Injury Facts (like motor-vehicle crashes, falls, or choking), preventable drug overdose death estimates are recommended.

The chart allows you to compare fatality trends by drug type, age, and gender. When comparing deaths by drug type, multiple drugs are often listed for one death. Because of this, the fatality counts by drug type are not mutually exclusive and should not be added together to calculate totals.

The majority of preventable drug overdose deaths (77%) involve opioids, totaling 64,183 in 2020. Opioid drugs include both prescription and illicit drug categories. The drug category most frequently involved in preventable opioid overdoses and growing at the fastest pace is “synthetic opioids other than methadone.” This category includes fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol. The fentanyl category of opioids accounted for 53,480 preventable deaths in 2020, representing a 59% increase over the 33,725 total in 2019.

A non-opioid, the Psychostimulants category that includes methamphetamines accounted for the second highest number of preventable drug deaths, claiming 23,022 lives in 2020, a 49% increase from the 15,503 deaths in 2019.

The opioid category that includes morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone (natural and semisynthetic opioids) was involved in 11,893 preventable deaths in 2020, a 19% increase from 2019.

The chart also allows you to explore overdose death trends among a few other non-opioid drugs, including benzodiazepines, cocaine, and cannabis.

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