America's Health Rankings, United Health Foundation Logo

Drug Deaths - Women
Drug Deaths - Women in United States
United States

Explore national- and state-level data for hundreds of health, environmental and socioeconomic measures, including background information about each measure. Use features on this page to find measures; view subpopulations, trends and rankings; and download and share content.

How to use this page

United States Value:


Number of deaths due to drug injury (unintentional, suicide, homicide or undetermined) per 100,000 females ages 20-44

Drug Deaths - Women in depth:

Explore Population Data:

General Population

Drug Deaths - Women by State

Number of deaths due to drug injury (unintentional, suicide, homicide or undetermined) per 100,000 females ages 20-44

Drug Deaths - Women Trends

Number of deaths due to drug injury (unintentional, suicide, homicide or undetermined) per 100,000 females ages 20-44

Trend: Drug Deaths - Women in United States, 2023 Health Of Women And Children Report

Number of deaths due to drug injury (unintentional, suicide, homicide or undetermined) per 100,000 females ages 20-44

United States

 CDC WONDER, Multiple Cause of Death Files

View All Populations

About Drug Deaths - Women

US Value: 25.7

Top State(s): Hawaii: 9.6

Bottom State(s): West Virginia: 84.6

Definition: Number of deaths due to drug injury (unintentional, suicide, homicide or undetermined) per 100,000 females ages 20-44

Data Source and Years: CDC WONDER, Multiple Cause of Death Files, 2019-2021

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

Drug overdose deaths have risen steadily in the U.S. over the past two decades and have become a leading cause of injury death. In 2021, more than 100,000 Americans died of a drug overdose, including over 32,000 women. Though these statistics reflect all drug deaths, opioids — fentanyl in particular — have been identified as the most significant contributor. Over 75% of drug deaths in 2020 involved an opioid. Overdose deaths caused by using multiple illicit substances simultaneously have also been rising and often include opioids. Other drugs that contribute to drug deaths in the U.S. include stimulants including cocaine and tranquilizers such as benzodiazepines. 

Heavy drug use and overdoses are costly to society, burdening individuals, families, the health care system and the economy. Annual cost estimates for prescription opioid misuse and illicit drug use in 2017 were $78.5 billion and $193 billion, respectively. The effects of substance misuse contribute to public health problems like neonatal abstinence syndrome, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Parental opioid use affected approximately 1.4 million children and 240,000 children lost a parent to opioid overdose in 2017. For pregnant women, accessing proper treatment for opioid use disorder may be challenging as some providers don’t treat pregnant patients.

According to America’s Health Rankings data, the drug death rate is highest among:

  • Women ages 35-44 compared with those ages 20-24. 
  • American Indian/Alaska Native women compared with Asian women.

Women living in rural counties also have a higher rate of drug overdose deaths than those living in urban areas.

A multifaceted and coordinated approach between public health and public safety has been a crucial component of the response effort. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) prevention strategies include:

  • Supporting surveillance and funding research on strategies to prevent opioid-related harms.
  • Building state, local and tribal capacity to coordinate prescription drug monitoring programs and respond to drug overdose outbreaks.
  • Supporting providers, health systems and payers in efforts to improve opioid prescribing for pain management, including use of the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain
  • Improving public safety by supporting law enforcement strategies to reduce the illicit opioid supply and improve distribution and timely use of naloxone (an antidote to reverse an opioid overdose). 
  • Empowering consumers to make safe choices by increasing awareness of the potential harms associated with prescription opioid misuse through the Rx Awareness Campaign

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has published an opioid overdose prevention toolkit for providers, communities, local governments and consumers. The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers resources and advice about what to do if someone you know has a problem with illicit drugs. 

In 2020, the OWH published a toolkit to help health care professionals and social services organization leaders improve care coordination for women with opioid use disorder.

Healthy People 2030 has several objectives related to alcohol and drug use, including:

  • Reducing drug overdose deaths.
  • Increasing abstinence from illicit drugs among pregnant women.
  • Reducing the proportion of women who use illicit opioids during pregnancy.
  • Reducing the proportion of adolescents who used drugs in the past month.

Dowell, Deborah, Kathleen R. Ragan, Christopher M. Jones, Grant T. Baldwin, and Roger Chou. 2022. “CDC Clinical Practice Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Pain — United States, 2022.” MMWR. Recommendations and Reports 71 (3): 1–95.

Drug Enforcement Administration. 2021. “2020 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA).” DEA-DCT-DIR-008-21. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration.

Hedegaard, Holly, Arialdi Miniño, Merianne Rose Spencer, and Margaret Warner. 2021. “Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2020.” NCHS Data Brief No. 428. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

Merianne Rose, Spencer, Matthew Garnett, and Miniño Arialdi M. 2022. “Urban–Rural Differences in Drug Overdose Death Rates, 2020.” National Center for Health Statistics (U.S.).

Patrick, Stephen W., Melinda B. Buntin, Peter R. Martin, Theresa A. Scott, William Dupont, Michael Richards, and William O. Cooper. 2018. “Barriers to Accessing Treatment for Pregnant Women with Opioid Use Disorder in Appalachian States.” Substance Abuse 40 (3): 356–62.

Phillippi, Julia C., Rebecca Schulte, Kemberlee Bonnet, Peter R. Martin, Katy B. Kozhimannil, Stephen W. Patrick, William O. Cooper, and David D. Schlundt. 2021. “Reproductive-Age Women’s Experience of Accessing Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder: ‘We Don’t Do That Here.’” Women’s Health Issues, June.

Spencer, Merianne, Arialdi Miniño, and Margaret Warner. 2022. “Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 2001–2021.” National Center for Health Statistics (U.S.).

Suzanne C. Brundage, Adam Fifield, Lee Partridge, United Hospital Fund, and Boston Consulting Group. 2019. The Ripple Effect: National and State Estimates of the U.S. Opioid Epidemic’s Impact on Children. United Health Foundation.

Wilson, Nana, Mbabazi Kariisa, Puja Seth, Herschel IV Smith, and Nicole L. Davis. 2020. “Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths — United States, 2017–2018.” MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 69 (11): 290–97.

Current Reports

America’s Health Rankings builds on the work of the United Health Foundation to draw attention to public health and better understand the health of various populations. Our platform provides relevant information that policymakers, public health officials, advocates and leaders can use to effect change in their communities.

We have developed detailed analyses on the health of key populations in the country, including women and children, seniors and those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, in addition to a deep dive into health disparities across the country.