About Overdose Prevention

What to know

  • Drug overdoses dramatically increased over the last two decades, with deaths increasing more than 500% between 1999 and 2022.
  • Deaths involving multiple drugs (i.e., polysubstance overdose deaths) also increased.
  • Drug overdose death disparities are widening.
  • Substance use and substance use disorders (SUDs), especially those that lead to drug overdose deaths, are prominent public health issues.


Drug overdose is an evolving public health crisis. In 2022, an estimated 54.6 million Americans needed substance use disorder treatment, but only 13.1 million people with a substance use disorder in the past year received treatment.1 Reducing the use of illegal drugs, the misuse of prescription opioids and other medications, and drug overdoses and deaths has been a longstanding challenge.

Drug overdoses dramatically increased over the last two decades, with deaths increasing more than 500% between 1999 and 2022. Deaths involving multiple drugs (i.e., polysubstance overdose deaths) also increased.2 Research shows that people who have had at least one overdose are more likely to have another.3 Drug overdoses impact families, communities, workplaces, and the economy.

Drug overdose data show troubling trends and widening disparities among different population groups. From 2019 to 2020, in 25 states and the District of Columbia, overdose death rates (number of drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people) increased 44% for Black people and 39% for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people. Most people who died by overdose had no evidence of substance use treatment before their deaths.4

Overdose statistics

General and Demographics

  • In 2022, nearly 108,000 people died from drug overdoses, which equates to about 296 overdoses each day.5
  • Although their drug overdose death rates were the lowest by age group, adults 65 and older experienced the largest percentage increase in rates from 2021 to 2022, with a 10% increase.5
  • In both 2021 and 2022, drug overdose death rates were highest for American Indian and Alaska Native people and lowest among Asian people.5
  • Between 2021 and 2022, rates of drug overdose deaths increased for most race groups and Hispanic-origin persons.5
  • During January through June 2019, in 24 states and the District of Columbia, more than 3 out of 5 overdose deaths had at least one potential opportunity to link people to care before the fatal overdose or to implement life-saving actions when the fatal overdose occurred.6

Drug Type

  • Among the 2022 overdose deaths, about 76% involved any opioid (prescription or illicit), 68% involved a synthetic opioid other than methadone — such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol), 26% involved cocaine, and 32% involved a psychostimulant such as methamphetamine.5
  • The rate of overdose deaths involving heroin decreased almost 36%.5
  • In 2021, 79% of overdose deaths involving cocaine also involved an opioid and 66% of psychostimulant-involved overdose deaths also involved an opioid.7
  • Illegally made fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine (alone or in combination) were involved in nearly 85% of drug overdose deaths in 24 states and the District of Columbia during January–June 2019.6

These statistics reflect the importance of action. CDC is addressing this crisis through evidence-based interventions that account for changes in the illegal drug supply that make the crisis deadlier than ever, continued threats from illegally made fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, and a rise in deaths involving stimulants and more than one drug.

CDC’s prevention work to address the drug overdose epidemic

One way CDC is working to address drug overdoses is to advance overdose prevention in communities across the country. There were two funding announcements made available in 2023 for city, county, and state health departments and territories to known as the Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) cooperative agreements. Through these funding opportunities, we support innovation, expand harm reduction strategies, link people to life-saving care, and make the latest data available so that we can get ahead of the constantly evolving epidemic.

Additionally, we support the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Program, which is the nation's leading effort to support communities working to prevent youth substance use. The DFC program has been a central component of our nation's youth substance use prevention strategy and it provides funding and support to community coalitions to prevent and reduce youth substance use. DFC coalitions are uniquely situated to leverage historical knowledge and the unique needs and assets in their communities to address youth substance use by requiring comprehensive prevention planning with an emphasis on community level change.

Learn more about CDC's overdose prevention strategic priorities‎‎

Prevention efforts and evidence-based strategies

It is important that comprehensive, community-based prevention and response efforts incorporate culturally responsive actions that address disparities in drug overdose deaths and the inequities that contribute to them. Evidence-based prevention interventions are informed by research, practice, and indigenous knowledge. Dissemination can be strengthened by partnerships and can be tailored and scaled up to meet local circumstances.

Not all overdoses have to end in death. Everyone has a role to play. It is important that more is done to prevent overdoses and deaths. Prevention activities help educate and support individuals, families, and communities and are critical for maintaining both individual and community health.

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2023). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP23-07-01-006, NSDUH Series H-58). Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2022-nsduh-annual-national-report
  3. Olfson M, Wall M, Wang S, Crystal S, Blanco C. Risks of fatal opioid overdose during the first year following nonfatal overdose. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2018 Sep 1;190:112-119. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.06.004. Epub 2018 Jul 4. PMID: 30005310; PMCID: PMC10398609.
  4. Vital Signs: Drug Overdose Deaths, by Selected Sociodemographic and Social Determinants of Health Characteristics — 25 States and the District of Columbia, 2019–2020 | MMWR (cdc.gov)
  5. Spencer MR, Garnett MF, Miniño AM. Drug overdose deaths in the United States, 2002–2022. NCHS Data Brief, no 491. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2024. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.15620/cdc:135849
  6. O'Donnell J, Gladden RM, Mattson CL, Hunter CT, Davis NL. Vital Signs: Characteristics of Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Opioids and Stimulants — 24 States and the District of Columbia, January–June 2019. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1189–1197. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6935a1.
  7. Spencer MR, Miniño AM, Garnett MF. Co-involvement of opioids in drug overdose deaths involving cocaine and psychostimulants, 2011–2021. NCHS Data Brief, no 474. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2023. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.15620/cdc:129733