Drug Overdoses

Preventable drug-related poisoning deaths, or drug overdoses, decreased for the first time since tracking began in 1999. Preventable drug overdose deaths decreased nearly 4% in 2018, from 61,311 in 2017. In 2018, 58,908 people died from preventable drug overdoses – an increase of 428% since 1999. These deaths represent 87% of the total 67,367 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 (72%) involve opioids, totaling 42,518 in 2018. Opioid drugs include both prescription and illicit drug categories. The drug category most frequently involved in 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 28,918 preventable deaths in 2018, representing a 10% increase over the 26,211 total in 2017.

Heroin accounted for the second highest number of deaths, claiming 14,432 lives in 2018, a 2% decrease from the 14,762 deaths in 2017.

The opioid category that includes morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone (natural and semisynthetic opioids) was involved in 10,640 deaths in 2017.

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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