Data Overview

The Drug Overdose Epidemic: Behind the Numbers

More than 1 million people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose.1 More than 75% of drug overdose deaths in 2021 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.

The number of overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opioids (like fentanyl), in 2021 was 10 times the number in 1999.1 Overdoses involving opioids killed more than 80,000 people in 2021, and nearly 88% 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; 2022. 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.
  3. Spencer MR, Miniño AM, Warner M. Drug overdose deaths in the United States, 2001–2021. NCHS Data Brief, no 457. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2022. DOI:
Visit the information and resource hub