America’s Drug Overdose Epidemic: Data to Action

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America’s drug overdose crisis requires an expansive, evolving, and ongoing response. See data and resources related to the current drug overdose crisis in the United States.

A Comprehensive Look at Drug Overdoses in the United States

Drug overdose deaths continue to impact communities in the United States. From 1999 to 2017, more than 702,000 people have died from a drug overdose. In 2017, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses, making it a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. Sixty-eight percent of those deaths involved a prescription or illicit opioid. On average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

CDC Works to Prevent Opioid Overdose Deaths

CDC is committed to preventing opioid misuse, overdoses, and deaths. Five key strategies guide our work and help us protect all Americans.

Conduct Surveillance and Research

Conduct surveillance and research

Overdose deaths from opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opioids (like fentanyl) have increased almost six times since 1999. Overdoses involving opioids killed more than 47,000 people in 2017, and 36% of those deaths involved prescription opioids. The MMWR, Changes in opioid-involved overdose deaths co-occurring with other illicit opioids, benzodiazepines, cocaine, and methamphetamine — 25 States, July–December 2017 to January–June 2018, is now available. See Overview of the Drug Overdose Epidemic: Behind the Numbers for more information about surveillance and research.

Build State, Local, and Tribal Capacity

Build state, local, and tribal capacity

Overdose Data to Action funds 47 states, Washington, D.C., 16 localities, and two territories to advance understanding of the opioid overdose epidemic by enhancing the tracking of drug overdoses and scaling up prevention and response activities.

Support Providers, Health Systems, and Payers

Support providers, health systems, and payers

CDC’s Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain is a useful resource for providers treating chronic pain for adult patients in primary care settings (excluding end-of-life, palliative, and active cancer care). Its 12 recommendations help patients and clinicians determine risks and benefits of opioid therapy, and identify optimal ways to manage pain.

Partner with Public Safety

Partner with public safety

CDC coordinates with community-based partners and public safety workers (e.g., first responders, police, and firefighters) to rapidly identify overdose threats, reverse overdoses, link people to effective treatment, and reduce harms associated with opioid useexternal icon.

Empower Consumers to Make Safe Choices

Empower consumers to make safe choices

CDC created the Rx Awareness campaign to educate everyone about the dangers and risks of prescription opioids. The campaign tells the real stories of people whose lives were torn apart by misuse of prescription opioids through videos, radio spots, social media, signs and billboards, and online ads.

Urgent Work Remains to Reverse the Drug Overdose Crisis

Additional measures are needed to address a diverse and evolving array of drug types, especially as death rates involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (e.g., illicitly manufactured fentanyl), cocaine, and psychostimulants with abuse potential all increased from 2016 through 2017. Public health and public safety must be well equipped to respond as new drug threats emerge. Communities, healthcare providers, public health, law enforcement, and other sectors will need to coordinate efforts to address this ongoing crisis.

Visit CDC’s Response to the Opioid Overdose Epidemic to learn more.

Image shows a line of young people from the back with their arms around each other.

International Overdose Awareness Day is August 31 each year.

Opioid Crisis Awareness Weekexternal icon is September 8-14, 2019

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Prevent Overdose Deaths

Despite progress, drug overdose deaths continue to impact our nation.

  • The majority involved a prescription or illicit opioid.
  • Exposure to more than one drug at the same time can increase overdose risk.
  • More than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017.

Not all overdoses have to end in death.

Everyone has a role to play.

  • Learn about the risks of opioids.
  • Learn about noloxone, its availability, and how to use it.
  • Help people struggling with opioid use disorder to find the right care and treatment.
More Information

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a great resource to share with someone who may have a substance use disorder. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4537) or check out SAMHSA’s Behavioral Treatment Services Locatorexternal icon.