Drug Overdose Deaths
Monitoring deaths from drug overdose helps us understand the epidemic’s impact on the U.S. population and tell us how the crisis is evolving – for better or worse.
The National Vital Statistics System collects and shares critical information on deaths from drug overdoses, such as what substances were used and where deaths are happening in America.
Find information about drug overdose deaths, learn more about trends, and see charts and graphs.
Find detailed datasets and results about drug overdose deaths, including records by state, our most recent provisional estimates, and final annual data releases.
Understanding Drug Death Data
Our systems receive and analyze data from death certificates, including cause-of-death information reported by medical examiners and coroners. Because drug overdose deaths often require lengthy investigations, data are updated as new information is received.
Information about which drugs were involved in a death comes from the literal text description of the cause of death, which is written on the death certificate by the medical certifier. The cause-of-death literal text is coded to ICD-10 codes for reporting or can be analyzed directly. Drug overdose deaths involving multiple drugs may be included in more than one category in our reporting.
Recent efforts to modernize the nation’s vital statistics system have led to significant improvements in the timeliness and quality of drug overdose death data. These projects are ongoing at the national level and with our state and local partners.
- A Reference Guide for Completing the Death Certificate for Drug Toxicity Deathspdf icon (5/3/2019)
- Projects to modernize drug death reporting:
- Hedegaard H, Miniño AM, Warner M. Co-involvement of opioids in drug overdose deaths involving cocaine and psychostimulants. NCHS Data Brief, no 406. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.15620/cdc:103966external icon. (4/2021)
- Hedegaard H, Spencer MR. Urban–rural differences in drug overdose death rates, 1999–2019. NCHS Data Brief, no 403. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2021. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.15620/cdc:102891external icon. (3/2021)
- Rossen LM, Hedegaard H, Warner M, Ahmad FB, Sutton PD. Early provisional estimates of drug overdose, suicide, and transportation-related deaths: Nowcasting methods to account for reporting lagspdf icon. Vital Statistics Rapid Release; no 11. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. February 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.15620/cdc:101132external icon. (2/2021)
- Hedegaard H, Miniño AM, Warner M. Drug overdose deaths in the United States, 1999–2019. NCHS Data Brief, no 394. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2020. (12/2020)
- Hedegaard H, Spencer MR, Garnett MF. Increase in drug overdose deaths involving cocaine: United States, 2009–2018. NCHS Data Brief, no 384. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2020. (10/2020)
- Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2018 (1/2020)
- Regional Differences in the Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Drug Overdose Deathspdf icon (10/25/2019)
- Urban–rural Differences in Drug Overdose Death Rates, by Sex, Age, and Type of Drugs Involvedpdf icon (08/2019)
- Unintentional Injury Death Rates in Rural and Urban Areas (7/2019)
- Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Fentanyl, 2011–2016pdf icon (3/21/2019)
- Drug-poisoning Deaths Involving Heroin: United States, 2000–2013 (3/2015)
- Drug-poisoning Deaths Involving Opioid Analgesics: United States, 1999–2011 (9/2014)
- Drug Poisoning Deaths in the United States, 1980–2008 (12/2011)
- Prescription Drug Use Continues to Increase: U.S. Prescription Drug Data for 2007–2008 (9/2010)
- Increase in Fatal Poisonings Involving Opioid Analgesics in the United States, 1999–2006 (9/2009)
- 2019 Multiple Cause of Death Data File (12/2020)
- 2018 Multiple Cause of Death Data File (1/2020)
- Redacted Death Certificate Literal Text (7/16/2019)
The new expanded 2016 mortality file includes the literal text from the cause-of-death Section of the death certificate.
Provisional Estimates (Vital Statistics Rapid Release)
- VSRR Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts
Provisional (preliminary) estimates for drug overdose deaths based on a current flow of mortality data. Counts for the most recent final annual data are provided for comparison.
Online Databases: Mortality
- CDC WONDER
Interactive, online query tool that contains searchable and customizable tabulated data about leading causes of death
- CDC Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS)
Interactive, online database that provides fatal and nonfatal injury, violent death, and cost of injury data from a variety of trusted sources
- NCHS – Drug Poisoning Mortality by State: United States
Drug poisoning deaths at the U.S. and state level by selected demographic characteristics. Includes age-adjusted death rates for drug poisoning.
- NCHS – Drug Poisoning Mortality by County: United States
Drug poisoning deaths at the county level by selected demographic characteristics. Includes age-adjusted death rates for drug poisoning from 1999 to 2015.