Health

U.S. Drug Overdose Deaths Increased by 31 Percent in 2020; Up 56 Percent for Synthetic Opioids

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — According to a National Center for Health Statistics report released the last week of 2021 using official annual mortality data, 91,799 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2020. This is an astounding 31 percent increase over the 2019 rate and the largest year-over-year rate increase on record. Additional data suggests that 2021 drug overdose deaths continued to increase, underscoring the negative impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the health and well-being of Americans.

The increases in drug deaths occurred nationally, spanning age, sex, and racial/ethnic groups. In both 2019 and 2020, the highest overdose deaths rates were for American Indian/Alaska Native people and the largest percentage increase in drug overdose death rates from 2019 to 2020 were seen in Black and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander people. These data show again the urgent need for comprehensive action to address the nation’s growing substance misuse crisis among diverse populations.

Additional analysis by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and Well Being Trust (WBT) of state-level data show nearly all states and the District of Columbia saw increases between 2019 and 2020, including very large ones for many states.

  • Five states—Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia—had drug overdose death rates that increased by more than 50 percent between 2019 and 2020.
  • Just seven states had increases under 10 percent, including three states (Delaware, New Hampshire, and South Dakota) that saw declines.

“The long-term and recent trends in drug overdoses are alarming, and require more attention from policymakers,” said J. Nadine Gracia, M.D., MSCE, President and CEO of Trust for America’s Health. “As we continue to respond to and work to recover from the pandemic, we must take a comprehensive approach that includes policies and programs that reduce overdoses and help Americans suffering from addiction. Policies that address social, economic, and environmental disadvantage, such as childhood trauma, poverty, and discrimination, are needed to help change the trajectory of alcohol, drug, and suicide deaths in the coming decades.”

Over the last five years, TFAH and WBT have released as series of reports on “deaths of despair” called Pain in the Nation: The Drug, Alcohol and Suicides Epidemics and the Need for a National Resilience Strategy, which include data analysis and recommendations for evidence-based policies and programs that federal, state, and local officials. The 2022 Pain in the Nation report will be released in May.

“This comes down to leadership and action. If we don’t move to do something now, these terrible trends will only continue,” said Benjamin F. Miller, PsyD, President of Well Being Trust. “The data are clear— we need to move beyond talk and push for programs and policies that work; and, we need to do so in a way that recognizes that all communities are different and each are going to benefit from a more tailored approach to address this massive problem.”

Key findings by drug-type from the recent NCHS report include:

  • Overall drug overdoses deaths: 91,799 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2020, a rate of 28.3 deaths per 100,000 people. This is a rate 31 percent higher than over 2019 when 70,630 Americans died of drug overdoses (21.6 deaths per 100,000).
  • Opioid overdose deaths: 68,630 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2020, a rate of 21.4 deaths per 100,000 people. This is a rate 38 percent higher than 2019 when 49,860 Americans died of opioid overdoses (15.5 deaths per 100,000).
  • Synthetic opioid overdose deaths: 56,516 Americans died from synthetic opioid overdoses in 2020, a rate of 17.8 deaths per 100,000 people. That is a rate 56 percent higher than 2019, when 36,359 Americans died of synthetic opioids overdoses (11.4 deaths per 100,000). The rate of synthetic opioid overdose deaths has increased more than fivefold over the past five years.
  • Cocaine overdose deaths: 19,447 Americans died from cocaine overdoses in 2020, a rate of 6.0 deaths per 100,000 people. That rate is 22 percent higher than 2019, when 15,883 Americans died of cocaine overdoses (4.9 deaths per 100,000). The rate of cocaine overdose deaths has increased by almost threefold over the past five years.
  • Psychostimulant overdose deaths: 23,837 Americans died from psychostimulants in 2020, a rate of 7.5 deaths per 100,000 people. That’s a rate 50 percent higher than 2019, when 16,167 Americans died from psychostimulant overdoses (5.0 deaths per 100,000). The rate of psychostimulants overdose death has increased by fourfold over the past five years.

Additional annual, racial/ethnic, and state-level data can be found below.

Drug Overdose Deaths, 1999-2020

Source: National Vital Statistics System, National Center for Health Statistics

Year

Deaths

Deaths per 100,000 (Age Adjusted)

1999

16,849

6.1

2000

17,415

6.2

2001

19,394

6.8

2002

23,518

8.2

2003

25,785

8.9

2004

27,424

9.4

2005

29,813

10.1

2006

34,425

11.5

2007

36,010

11.9

2008

36,450

11.9

2009

37,004

11.9

2010

38,329

12.3

2011

41,340

13.2

2012

41,502

13.1

2013

43,982

13.8

2014

47,055

14.7

2015

52,404

16.3

2016

63,632

19.8

2017

70,237

21.7

2018

67,367

20.7

2019

70,630

21.6

2020

91,799

28.3

Drug Overdose Deaths by Racial/Ethnic Groups, 2019-2020

Source: National Vital Statistics System, National Center for Health Statistics

Racial/Ethnic Group

2019 Deaths

2019 Deaths Per 100,000         (Age Adjusted)

2020 Deaths

2020 Deaths Per 100,000         (Age Adjusted)

Change in Death Rate, 2019–2020

Non-Hispanic White

50,044

26.2

62,312

33.1

26%

Non-Hispanic Black

10,517

24.8

15,256

35.8

44%

Non-Hispanic American Indian/ Alaska Native

723

30.5

1,009

42.5

39%

Non-Hispanic Asian  

679

3.3

935

4.6

39%

Non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian/ Other Pacific Islander

58

9.5

86

13.7

44%

Hispanic

7,473

12.7

10,606

17.6

39%

Drug Overdose Deaths by State, 2019-2020

Source: TFAH and WBT analysis of data from the National Center for Health Statistics

State

2019 Deaths

2019 Deaths Per 100,000  (Age Adjusted)

2020 Deaths

2020 Deaths Per 100,000 
(Age  adjusted)

Change in Death Rate, 2019–2020

Alabama

768

16.3

1029

22.3

37%

Alaska

132

17.8

160

22.0

24%

Arizona

1907

26.8

2550

35.8

33%

Arkansas

388

13.5

546

19.1

41%

California

6198

15.0

8908

21.8

46%

Colorado

1079

18.0

1492

24.9

38%

Connecticut

1214

34.7

1371

39.1

13%

Delaware

435

48.0

444

47.3

-2%

D.C.

311

43.2

424

58.1

34%

Florida

5268

25.5

7231

35.0

37%

Georgia

1408

13.1

1916

18.0

38%

Hawaii

242

15.9

274

18.3

15%

Idaho

265

15.1

287

15.9

5%

Illinois

2790

21.9

3549

28.1

28%

Indiana

1699

26.6

2321

36.7

38%

Iowa

352

11.5

432

14.3

25%

Kansas

403

14.3

490

17.4

22%

Kentucky

1380

32.5

2083

49.2

51%

Louisiana

1267

28.3

1896

42.7

51%

Maine

371

29.9

496

39.7

33%

Maryland

2369

38.2

2771

44.6

17%

Massachusetts

2210

32.1

2302

33.9

6%

Michigan

2385

24.4

2759

28.6

17%

Minnesota

792

14.2

1050

19.0

34%

Mississippi

394

13.6

586

21.1

55%

Missouri

1583

26.9

1875

32.1

19%

Montana

143

14.1

162

15.6

10%

Nebraska

161

8.7

214

11.3

30%

Nevada

647

20.1

832

26.0

29%

New Hampshire

407

32.0

393

30.3

-5%

New Jersey

2805

31.7

2840

32.1

1%

New Mexico

599

30.2

784

39.0

29%

New York

3617

18.2

4965

25.4

39%

North Carolina

2266

22.3

3146

30.9

39%

North Dakota

82

11.4

114

15.6

37%

Ohio

4251

38.3

5204

47.2

23%

Oklahoma

645

16.7

762

19.4

17%

Oregon

615

14.0

803

18.7

34%

Pennsylvania

4377

35.6

5168

42.4

19%

Rhode Island

307

29.5

397

38.2

29%

South Carolina

1127

22.7

1739

34.9

54%

South Dakota

86

10.5

83

10.3

-2%

Tennessee

2089

31.2

3034

45.6

46%

Texas

3136

10.8

4172

14.1

31%

Utah

571

18.9

622

20.5

8%

Vermont

133

23.8

190

32.9

38%

Virginia

1547

18.3

2240

26.6

45%

Washington

1259

15.8

1733

22.0

39%

West Virginia

870

52.8

1330

81.4

54%

Wisconsin

1201

21.1

1531

27.7

31%

Wyoming

79

14.1

99

17.4

23%

Trust for America’s Health is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes optimal health for every person and community and makes the prevention of illness and injury a national priority. www.tfah.org Twitter:@HealthyAmerica1

Well Being Trust is a national foundation dedicated to advancing the mental, social, and spiritual health of the nation. Created to include participation from organizations across sectors and perspectives, Well Being Trust is committed to innovating and addressing the most critical mental health challenges facing America, and to transforming individual and community well-being. www.wellbeingtrust.org. Twitter: @WellBeingTrust

SOURCE Trust for America’s Health

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