Data Overview

The Drug Overdose Epidemic: Behind the Numbers

More than 932,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose.1 Nearly 75% of drug overdose deaths in 2020 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 by more than eight times since 1999.1 Overdoses involving opioids killed nearly 69,000 people in 2020, and over 82% 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.


  1. Wide-ranging online data for epidemiologic research (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2021. Available at
  2. Hedegaard H, Miniño AM, Spencer MR, Warner M. Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2020. National Center for Health Statistics, December 2021.
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