NCHS Data on Drug Poisoning Deaths

Poisoning is the leading cause of injury death in the United States. Drugs—both pharmaceutical and illicit—cause the vast majority of poisoning deaths.

NCHS uses the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) to monitor deaths due to drug poisoning. NVSS collects and compiles mortality information from death certificates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. NCHS identifies the number of drug poisoning deaths from the underlying cause of death on death certificates. Multiple causes of death are used to identify the drugs involved. Approximately 23% of drug poisoning deaths lack information on the specific drugs involved.

An NCHS fact sheet highlights trends in drug-poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics (referred to as opioid-analgesic poisoning deaths).

Recent Findings

  • Since 2000, the age-adjusted drug poisoning death rate more than doubled, from 6.2 per 100,000 in 2000 to 13.8 per 100,000 in 2013.
  • In 2013, 43,982 deaths were due to drug poisoning; 81% of these deaths were unintentional, 12% were suicides, and 6% were of undetermined intent.
  • In 2011, opioid analgesics were involved in 41% of drug poisoning deaths (16,917 deaths); in 2013, that decreased to 37% (16,235 deaths).
  • The age-adjusted rate for deaths involving opioid analgesics more than tripled from 1.5 per 100,000 in 2000 to 5.4 per 100,000 in 2011, then declined to 5.1 per 100,000 in 2012 and 2013.
  • Nearly 70% of the opioid analgesic poisoning deaths in 2013 involved natural and semisynthetic opioid analgesics such as hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone
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