By: Rose A. Rudd, MSPH; Noah Aleshire, JD; Jon E. Zibbell, PhD; R. Matthew Gladden, PhD
Editor: Hannah Heitz
You can read the full report here.
The United States is experiencing an epidemic of drug overdose (poisoning) deaths. Since 2000, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137%, including a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (opioid pain relievers and heroin). CDC analyzed recent multiple cause-of-death mortality data to examine current trends and characteristics of drug overdose deaths, including the types of opioids associated with drug overdose deaths. The rate of drug overdose deaths increased significantly for both sexes, persons aged 25–44 years and ≥55 years, non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks, and in the Northeastern, Midwestern, and Southern regions of the United States. Rates of opioid overdose deaths also increased significantly, from 7.9 per 100,000 in 2013 to 9.0 per 100,000 in 2014, a 14% increase. Historically, CDC has programmatically characterized all opioid pain reliever deaths as ‘prescription’ opioid overdoses.  The sharp increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids, other than methadone, in 2014 coincided with law enforcement reports of increased availability of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid; however, illicitly manufactured fentanyl cannot be distinguished from prescription fentanyl in death certificate data. These findings indicate that the opioid overdose epidemic is worsening. There is a need for continued action to prevent opioid abuse, dependence, and death, improve treatment capacity for opioid use disorders, and reduce the supply of illicit opioids, particularly heroin and illicit fentanyl.
- The National Vital Statistics System multiple cause-of-death mortality files were used to identify drug overdose deaths.* (2). Among the deaths with drug overdose as the underlying cause, the type of opioid involved is indicated by the following ICD-10 multiple cause-of-death codes: opioids; natural and semisynthetic opioids; methadone; synthetic opioids, other than methadone; and heroin. Some deaths involve more than one type of opioid; these deaths were included in the rates for each category.
- During 2014, 47,055 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States. Since 2000, the age-adjusted drug overdose death rate has more than doubled (Figure 1). The overall number and rate of drug overdose deaths increased significantly from 2013 to 2014, with an additional 3,073 deaths occurring in 2014 (Table), resulting in a 6.5% increase in the age-adjusted rate.
- In 2014, 61% of drug overdose deaths involved some type of opioid, including heroin.
Corresponding author: Rose A. Rudd, firstname.lastname@example.org, 770-488-3712.
1. Paulozzi LJ, Jones C, Mack K, Rudd R. Vital signs: overdoses of prescription opioid pain relievers—United States, 1999–2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2011;60:1487–92.
2. Bergen G, Chen LH, Warner M, Fingerhut LA. Injury in the United States: 2007 chartbook. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2008 Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/misc/injury2007.pdf.
3. Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD. Deaths: final data for 2010. National vital statistics reports. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2013. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_04.pdf.
4. CDC. Wide-ranging online data for epidemiologic research (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2015. Available athttp://wonder.cdc.gov.
5. Jones CM, Logan J, Gladden RM, Bohm MK. Vital signs: demographic and substance use trends among heroin users—United States, 2002–2013. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2015;64:719–25.
6. Cicero TJ, Ellis MS, Surratt HL, Kurtz SP. The changing face of heroin use in the United States: a retrospective analysis of the past fifty years. JAMA Psychiatry 2014;71:821–6.
7. CDC. Increases in fentanyl drug confiscations and fentanyl-related overdose fatalities. HAN Health Advisory. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2015. Available at http://emergency.cdc.gov/han/han00384.asp.
8. Davis GG. Complete republication: National Association of Medical Examiners position paper: recommendations for the investigation, diagnosis, and certification of deaths related to opioid drugs. J Med Toxicol 2014;10:100–6.
9. Volkow ND, Frieden TR, Hyde PS, Cha SS. Medication-assisted therapies—tackling the opioid-overdose epidemic. N Engl J Med 2014;370:2063–6.