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Prescription Opioid Overdose Data

From 1999 to 2016, more than 200,000 people died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids. Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were five times higher in 2016 than 1999.1,2

Prescription Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths

Around 46 people die every day from overdoses involving prescription opioids.

Prescription opioids continue to contribute to the opioid overdose epidemic in the United States.  More than 40% of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths in 2016 involved a prescription opioid, with more than 46 people dying every day from overdoses involving prescription opioids. 1,2

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

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

Among those who died from prescription opioid overdose in 2016:

  • Overdose rates from prescription opioids were highest among people aged 25 to 54 years.
  • Overdose rates from prescription opioids were higher among non-Hispanic whites and American Indian or Alaskan Natives, compared to non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics.
  • The rate of overdose deaths from prescription opioids among men was 6.2 and the rate among women was 4.3 in 2016.
  • The highest overdose death rates from prescription opioids were in West Virginia, Maryland, Maine, and Utah.1

  • Large central metro—Counties in metropolitan statistical areas of 1 million or more population that:
    • Contain the entire population of the largest principal city
    • Have their entire population contained in the largest principal city
    • Contain at least 250,000 inhabitants of any principal city
  • Large fringe metro—Counties of 1 million or more population that did not qualify as large central metro counties.
  • Medium metro—Counties of populations of 250,000 to 999,999.
  • Small metro—Counties of populations less than 250,000.
  • Micropolitan—Counties in micropolitan statistical areas that have a population of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000.
  • Noncore—Nonmetropolitan counties that did not qualify as micropolitan.

Categories of 2013 NCHS Urban-Rural Classification Scheme for Counties (

Age-adjusted death rates for prescription opioids are plotted above by urbanization classification of residence for 2015 to 2016. Rates increased significantly for large central metro (14.6%), large fringe metro (23.8%), and medium metro (7.1%) areas. The prescription opioid overdose death rate also increased in the United States overall—a statistically significant 10.6% increase from 2015 to 2016, with a total of 17,087 deaths in 2016. Deaths are classified using the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD–10). Drug overdose deaths are identified using underlying cause-of-death codes X40–X44, X60–X64, X85, and Y10–Y14. Drug overdose deaths, as defined, that have prescription (natural and semi-synthetic) opioids (T40.2) or methadone (T40.3) as a contributing cause. Age-adjusted death rates were calculated using the direct method and the 2000 standard population.1


  1. Seth P, Scholl L, Rudd RA, Bacon S. Increases and Geographic Variations in Overdose Deaths Involving Opioids, Cocaine, and Psychostimulants with Abuse Potential – United States, 2015-2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 29 March 2018.
  2. Seth P, Rudd RA, Noonan RK, Haegerich. Quantifying the Epidemic of Prescription Opioid Overdose Deaths. American Journal of Public Health 108, no. 4 (April 1, 2018): pp. 500-502.
  3. Warner M, Trinidad JP, Bastian BA, Minino AM, Hedegaard H. Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Drug Overdose Deaths: United States, 2010-2014. National Vital Statistics Reports, vol 65, no 10. National Center for Health Statistics. 2016.