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Prescription Opioid Overdose Data

Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999,1  and so have sales of these prescription drugs.2 From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids.1

Opioid prescribing continues to fuel the epidemic. Today, at least half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.1  In 2014, more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids.

Most Commonly Overdosed Opioids

The most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths include:

  • Methadone
  • Oxycodone (such as OxyContin®)
  • Hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®)3

Overdose Deaths

Among those who died from prescription opioid overdose between 1999 and 2014:

  • Overdose rates were highest among people aged 25 to 54 years.
  • Overdose rates were higher among non-Hispanic whites and American Indian or Alaskan Natives, compared to non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics. 
  • Men were more likely to die from overdose, but the mortality gap between men and women is closing.4

Additional Risks

Overdose is not the only risk related to prescription opioids. Misuse, abuse, and opioid use disorder (addiction) are also potential dangers.

  • In 2014, almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids.5
  • As many as 1 in 4 people who receive prescription opioids long term for noncancer pain in primary care settings struggles with addiction. 6
  • Every day, over 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids.7


  1. CDC. Wide-ranging online data for epidemiologic research (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2016. Available at
  2. Frenk SM, Porter KS, Paulozzi LJ. Prescription opioid analgesic use among adults: United States, 1999–2012. NCHS data brief, no 189. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2015.
  3. Ossiander EM. Using textual cause-of-death data to study drug poisoning Ossiander EM Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Apr 1;179(7):884-94. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwt333. Epub 2014 Feb 1112.)
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Multiple Cause of Death 1999-2014 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released 2015. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2014, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2014.
  6. Boscarino JA, Rukstalis M, Hoffman SN, et al. Risk factors for drug dependence among out-patients on opioid therapy in a large US health-care system. Addiction 2010;105:1776–82. http://dx.doi. org/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.03052.x
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Highlights of the 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) findings on drug-related emergency department visits. The DAWN Report. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; 2013. Available from URL:

	Assess. Manage. Monitor. Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain