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Data Overview

Overview of an epidemic

Drug overdose deaths and opioid-involved deaths continue to increase in the United States. Deaths from drug overdose are up among both men and women, all races, and adults of nearly all ages.1

More than three out of five drug overdose deaths involve an opioid.1 Opioids are substances that work on the nervous system in the body or specific receptors in the brain to reduce the intensity of pain. Overdose deaths from opioids, including prescription opioids and heroin, have increased by more than five times since 1999. Overdoses involving opioids killed more than 42,000 people in 2016.1 40% of those deaths were from prescription opioids.1

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Overdose Deaths Involving Opioids, United States, 2000-2015. For data points, see source: CDC. Increases in Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths, United States, 2010-2015. MMWR 2016.

CDC’s National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) presents provisional counts for drug overdose deaths occurring within the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The counts represent the number of reported deaths due to drug overdose occurring in the 12-month periods ending in the month indicated.


  1. Hedegaard H, Warner M, Miniño AM. Drug overdose deaths in the United States, 1999–2016. NCHS Data Brief, no 294. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2017/ CDC. Wide-ranging online data for epidemiologic research (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2016. Available at