Drug Overdose Deaths Among Adolescents Aged 15-19 in the United States: 1999-2015

August 16, 2017

Questions for Sally Curtin, Statistician and author of “Drug Overdose Deaths Among Adolescents Aged 15-19 in the United States: 1999-2015

Q:  Do trends in overdose deaths among teens reflect the trends of older adults in the U.S.?

SC: There are some similarities, but also differences.  Both teens and older adults experienced the sharp increases from 1999 through the mid-2000s.  But unlike older adults, whose rates continued to increase, teenagers actually had a decline in drug overdose death rates through 2014, before an upturn in 2015.  All of this decline was for males as the rates for females stabilized from 2004-2013 before increasing again.


Q: Do we know why trends for teens dropped during the first several years of the millennium?  And why they increased sharply in 2015?

SC: There are many public health initiatives to combat the rising drug overdose death rates.  While we do not know the exact reason for the decline, we know the specific drugs that were involved—opioids, cocaine, and benzodiazepines.  For the opioids, it was the frequently prescribed drugs—methadone and natural and semisynthetic (oxycodone, morphine) that had declines for teens since the mid 2000s.  Other opioids such as heroin and synthetic opioids (including fentanyl) fluctuated but generally increased over the 1999-2915 study period.  The continued rise in drug overdose deaths involving heroin and synthetic opioids from 2014 to 2015 contributed to the uptick between those years.


Q: What are the differences in overdose deaths by gender and race?

SC: We did not examine race in this report because the numbers were too small for some groups.  By gender, the drug overdose death rate for males was higher for females for every year of the 1999-2015 period and was 70% higher in 2015.  While males had a greater increase in drug overdose death rates than females between 1999 and the mid-2000s, they also declined by about a third between 2007 and 2014 before increasing again.  The rate in 2015 was still lower than the 2007 peak.  Females had an increase, albeit smaller than for males, and then their rate stabilized between 2004-2013 before increasing again.


Q:  What type of drugs are killing these teens?

SC: As for the population at large, the majority of drug overdose deaths involve opioids.  When we examined the specific type of opioid involved, heroin is the leading drug involved and rose fairly steadily throughout the study period.  Synthetic opioids (including fentanyl) were lower than other opioid drugs through the early years of the period, but then doubled between 2014 and 2015.  This large increase for synthetic opioids has also been observed for the population at large.

We did not look at combinations of drugs.  Often, there is more than one drug involved so the categories we show are not mutually exclusive.


Stat of the Day – May 17, 2017

May 17, 2017

Drug Poisoning Mortality: United States, 1999-2015

April 19, 2017

The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) has released a new data visualization storyboard that presents drug poisoning deaths from 1999 to 2015 at the national, state, and county levels.

The first two dashboards depict U.S. and state trends in age-adjusted death rates for drug poisoning from 1999 to 2015 by selected demographic characteristics, and the third dashboard presents a series of heat maps of model-based county estimates for drug poisoning mortality from 1999 to 2015.


Has the death rate from drug overdoses in the U.S. increased most rapidly among young people over the last decade and a half?

February 24, 2017

Source: National Vital Statistics System


QuickStats: Rates of Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Heroin by Selected Age Groups — United States, 2006–2015

January 9, 2017

The rate of drug overdose deaths involving heroin increased slightly during 2006–2010 but more than tripled during 2010–2015 for all age groups shown.

During 2010–2015, the rates increased from 1.2 to 3.8 per 100,000 for persons aged 15–24 years, from 2.2 to 9.7 for persons aged 25–34 years, from 1.6 to 7.4 for persons aged 35–44 years, from 1.4 to 5.6 for persons aged 45–54 years, and from 0.7 to 3.4 for persons aged 55–64 years.

In 2015, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving heroin was highest for persons aged 25–34.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6552a12.htm

Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Drug Overdose Deaths: United States, 2010–2014

December 20, 2016
Dr. Margaret Warner, Senior Epidemiologist

Dr. Margaret Warner, Senior Epidemiologist

Questions for Margaret Warner, Senior Epidemiologist  and Lead Author on “Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Drug Overdose Deaths: United States, 2010–2014.”

Q: Why did you decide to do a report on drugs most frequently involved in drug overdose deaths?

MW: From our routine mortality statistics, we know that drug overdose death rates are increasing, and we have some insight into the classes of drugs involved. This report presents findings from a new method we developed to identify the specific drugs involved in drug overdose deaths, which gives us a more complete and granular understanding of the problem.

Q: Do you have 2015 data on drug overdose deaths? If not, when do you anticipate this being released?

MW: NCHS just released the 2015 mortality data at the beginning of December. CDC released an MMWR last week describing drug overdose deaths in 2015 and some of the drug classes involved. NCHS is currently analyzing the 2015 literal text data using the new method to report on the specific drugs, and plan to have those results available soon.

Q: How has the number of drug overdose deaths changed from 2010 to 2014?

MW: From 2010 through 2014, the number of drug overdose deaths per year increased 23%. During this 5-year period, the age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving heroin more than tripled, and the rate of drug overdose deaths involving methamphetamine more than doubled.

The rate of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled in a single year (from 2013 to 2014). Fentanyl went from the 9th most common drug involved in overdose deaths in 2013 to the 5th most common in 2014.

Q: What are the most prevalent drugs involved in drug overdose deaths?

MW: The 10 drugs most frequently involved in overdose deaths included the following opioids: heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, methadone, and hydrocodone; the following benzodiazepines: alprazolam and diazepam; and the following stimulants: cocaine and methamphetamine.

Q: Were there any findings that surprised you?

MW: We suspected that multidrug toxicity played a role in drug overdose deaths, and this analysis revealed that nearly half of these deaths where at least one drug was mentioned on the death certificate, involved more than one drug. We were surprised that the top 10 drugs were often mentioned in combination with each other. We were also pleasantly surprised to find that the reporting on specific drugs improved with the percentage of death certificates mentioning at least one specific drug increasing from 67% in 2010 to 78% in 2014.

NCHS Data on Drug Poisoning Deaths

July 23, 2015

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