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Drug Deaths
Drug Deaths in United States
United States

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Drug Deaths in depth:

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Drug Deaths by State

Deaths due to drug injury (unintentional, suicide, homicide or undetermined) per 100,000 population (1-year)




Drug Deaths Trends

Deaths due to drug injury (unintentional, suicide, homicide or undetermined) per 100,000 population (1-year)


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Drug Deaths





About Drug Deaths

US Value: 27.9

Top State(s): South Dakota: 9.8

Bottom State(s): West Virginia: 77.4

Definition: Deaths due to drug injury (unintentional, suicide, homicide or undetermined) per 100,000 population (1-year)

Data Source and Years: CDC WONDER, Multiple Cause of Death Files, 2020

Suggested Citation: America's Health Rankings analysis of CDC WONDER, Multiple Cause of Death Files, United Health Foundation, AmericasHealthRankings.org, accessed 2023.

Heavy drug use and overdoses burden individuals, families, their communities, the health care system and the economy. Drug overdoses are a leading cause of injury death, increasing 56.5% between 2013 and 2019. There were more than 91,000 confirmed drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2020 and, of those, roughly 69,000 involved an opioid. Those who take a high daily dosage of prescription pain relievers (e.g., methadone, oxycodone or hydrocodone) are vulnerable to overdose and abuse of prescription opioids. 

Increases in overdose deaths are associated with increases in child maltreatment reports and foster care placements. 

In 2017, fatal opioid overdoses and opioid use disorder cost the United States $1.02 trillion.

Populations with higher drug overdose death rates include:

  • Men, who have more than twice the rate of drug overdose deaths of women.
  • Adults ages 35-44, who have the highest rate of drug overdose deaths compared with other age groups. 
  • American Indian/Alaska Native, white and Black adults compared with Asian adults.
  • Individuals working in construction and extraction occupations.
  • Urban populations compared with rural populations. 

Opioid overdoses may be reversed with naloxone, an opioid antagonist. Strategies to prevent overdose deaths and reduce harm among those with opioid addiction include:

For primary care providers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed the Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain and a prescription checklist to encourage safe prescribing practices. 

Individuals can work with their doctors to safely and effectively manage their pain and avoid the risk of opioid abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) offers resources and advice about what to do if someone you know has a problem with drugs.

Reducing drug overdose deaths is a Healthy People 2030 goal.

Billock, Rachael M. 2022. “QuickStats: Age-Adjusted Drug Overdose Death Rates* Among Workers Aged 16–64 Years in Usual Occupation† Groups with the Highest Drug Overdose Death Rates — National Vital Statistics System, United States,§ 2020.” MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 71 (29): 948. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7129a5.

Crowley, Daniel Max, Christian M. Connell, Damon Jones, and Michael W. Donovan. 2019. “Considering the Child Welfare System Burden from Opioid Misuse: Research Priorities for Estimating Public Costs.” The American Journal of Managed Care 25 (13 Suppl): S256–63. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7895335/.

Dowell, Deborah, Tamara M. Haegerich, and Roger Chou. 2016. “CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain — United States, 2016.” MMWR. Recommendations and Reports 65 (RR-1): 1–49. http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.rr6501e1.

Hedegaard, Holly, and Merianne Rose Spencer. 2021. “Urban–Rural Differences in Drug Overdose Death Rates, 1999–2019.” NCHS Data Brief No. 403. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. https://doi.org/10.15620/cdc:102891.

Mattson, Christine L., Lauren J. Tanz, Kelly Quinn, Mbabazi Kariisa, Priyam Patel, and Nicole L. Davis. 2021. “Trends and Geographic Patterns in Drug and Synthetic Opioid Overdose Deaths — United States, 2013–2019.” MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 70 (6): 202–7. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7006a4.

Rudd, Rose A., Puja Seth, Felicita David, and Lawrence Scholl. 2016. “Increases in Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths — United States, 2010–2015.” MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 65 (5051): 1445–52. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm655051e1.

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