The Drug Overdose Epidemic: Behind the Numbers
Nearly 841,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose.1 Over 70% of drug overdose deaths in 2019 involved an opioid.2 Opioids are substances that work in the nervous system of the body or in specific receptors in the brain to reduce the intensity of pain.
Overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opioids (like fentanyl), have increased over six times since 1999.1 Overdoses involving opioids killed nearly 50,000 people in 2019, and nearly 73% of those deaths involved synthetic opioids.2
Learn more about the Data Sources that CDC uses to track the drug overdose epidemic in the United States.
- Wide-ranging online data for epidemiologic research (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2020. Available at http://wonder.cdc.gov.
- Mattson CL, Tanz LJ, Quinn K, Kariisa M, Patel P, Davis NL. Trends and Geographic Patterns in Drug and Synthetic Opioid Overdose Deaths — United States, 2013–2019. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:202–207. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7006a4external icon.