Drug Overdoses

Preventable drug-related poisoning deaths, or drug overdoses, are at an all-time high and increasing rapidly. In 2017, 61,311 people died from preventable drug overdoses – an increase of 450% since 1999. These deaths represent 87% of the total 70,237 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 (70%) involve opioids, totaling 43,036 in 2017. 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 26,211 preventable deaths in 2017, representing a 48% increase over the 17,696 total in 2016.

Heroin accounted for the second highest number of deaths, claiming 14,762 lives in 2017, a 1% increase over the 14,606 deaths in 2016.

The opioid category that includes morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone (natural and semisynthetic opioids) was involved in 12,255 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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