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Addiction Statistics

The Drug overdose Epidemic In The United States

Drug overdoses, both fatal and nonfatal, continue to impact our nation.

Overdose deaths remain a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. The majority of overdose deaths involve opioids. Deaths involving synthetic opioids (largely illicitly made fentanyl) and stimulants (such as cocaine and methamphetamine) have increased in recent years. In addition, overdose deaths accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For every drug overdose that results in death, there are many more nonfatal overdoses, each one with its own emotional and economic toll. This fast-moving epidemic does not distinguish among age, sex, or state or county lines. People who have had at least one overdose are more likely to have another. If a person who has had an overdose is seen in the ED, there is an opportunity to help prevent a repeat overdose by linking an individual to care that can improve their health outcomes.

Timely data help improve coordination and promote readiness among health departments, community members, healthcare providers, public health, law enforcement, and government agencies, for regional or multiple state overdose increases.

More than 932,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose. In 2020, 91,799 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States. The age-adjusted rate of overdose deaths increased by 31% from 2019 (21.6 per 100,000) to 2020 (28.3 per 100,000).

  • Opioids—mainly synthetic opioids (other than methadone)—are currently the main driver of drug overdose deaths. 82.3% of opioid-involved overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids.
  • Opioids were involved in 68,630 overdose deaths in 2020 (74.8% of all drug overdose deaths).
  • Drug overdose deaths involving psychostimulants such as methamphetamine are increasing with and without synthetic opioid involvement.

Opioids By The Numbers

  • $9 billion in grants from HHS to states, tribes, and local communities to fight the opioids crisis in 2016-2019
  • 14,000+ substance abuse facilities in the U.S.
  • 1.27 million Americans are now receiving medication-assisted treatment.
  • 4.1% decline in drug overdose deaths in the United States from 2017 to 2018.
  • 106% increase in total DATA waived providers from January 2017 to June 2019.
  • 142% increase in patients receiving medication-assisted treatment at HRSA-funded health centers from 2016-2018.
  • More than 760,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose. Two out of three drug overdose deaths in 2018 involved an opioid.
  • Misuse of prescription opioids among high school seniors is at its lowest rate since the survey began assessing it.
  • In 2016, the national rate of opioid-related hospitalizations was 297 per 100,000 population.
  • Naloxone is a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. The number of prescriptions for naloxone doubled from 2017 to 2018.
  • In 2019, an estimated 10.1 million people aged 12 or older misused opioids in the past year. Specifically, 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers and 745,000 people used heroin.
  • Appropriate prescribing of opioids is essential to protecting the health and safety of Medicare beneficiaries. One in three Medicare Part D beneficiaries received a prescription opioid in 2016.
  • Emergency department visits for opioid overdoses rose 30% in all parts of the US from July 2016 through September 2017.

Synthetic opioid overdose data

In 2020, more than 56,000 deaths involving synthetic opioids (other than methadone) occurred in the United States, which is more deaths than from any other type of opioid. Synthetic opioid-involved death rates increased by over 56% from 2019 to 2020 and accounted for over 82% of all opioid-involved deaths in 2020. The rate of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids was more than 18 times higher in 2020 than in 2013.

Previous reports have indicated that increases in synthetic opioid-involved deaths have been associated with the number of drug submissions obtained by law enforcement that test positive for fentanyl but not with fentanyl prescribing rates. These reports indicate that increases in synthetic opioid-involved deaths are being driven by increases in fentanyl-involved overdose deaths, and the source of the fentanyl is more likely to be illicitly manufactured than pharmaceutical.

There are also fentanyl analogs, such as acetylfentanyl, furanylfentanyl, and carfentanil, which are similar in chemical structure to fentanyl but not routinely detected because specialized toxicology testing is required. Recent surveillance has also identified other emerging synthetic opioids, like U-47700. Estimates of the potency of fentanyl analogs vary from less potent than fentanyl to much more potent than fentanyl, but there is some uncertainty because potency of illicitly manufactured fentanyl analogs has not been evaluated in humans. Carfentanil, the most potent fentanyl analog detected in the U.S., is estimated to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

Principles For Overdose Prevention

Promote Health Equity
All individuals have the right to be as healthy as possible. CDC is committed to ensuring everyone has an equitable opportunity to prevent overdose and substance use-related harms and remains dedicated to addressing and ending health disparities related to the overdose crisis. CDC also promotes actions to advance health equity to ensure all communities can fight the overdose crisis together.
Address Underlying Factors
Many factors contribute to harms associated with substance use while other factors can be protective. CDC is committed to identifying these factors to better design and focus interventions to address the overdose crisis, while attending to health disparities and inequities.
Partner Broadly

Addressing the overdose crisis requires partnering with multiple sectors and organizations within all of CDC’s strategic priorities. Partnerships provide opportunities to develop, coordinate, and implement targeted strategies to prevent harm. CDC is dedicated to broad and diverse partnerships as a foundation of preventing overdose and substance-use related harms.

Take Evidence-Based Action

To better address the overdose crisis, CDC promotes strategies that have been extensively researched by scientists. Evidence-based action ensures the delivery (or implementation) of effective methods for preventing and reducing overdose and substance use-related harms that are translated and adapted for diverse audiences and settings.

Advance Science

Continuing to build the evidence-base for what works to prevent overdose and substance-use related harms is critical to ending the overdose crisis. By advancing science through supporting public health surveillance, identifying risk and protective factors, developing and evaluating prevention strategies, and ensuring effective communication strategies that are adapted for diverse audiences, CDC is committed to building the evidence-base for what works to end the overdose crisis.

Drive Innovation

The overdose crisis will require new and innovative ideas to prevent overdose and substance use-related harms. CDC promotes the generation, implementation, evaluation, and widespread adoption of innovative ideas to address the overdose crisis in all areas of its work.

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