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, 2006–2015January 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.
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.
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).
- 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
Drug poisoning (overdose) is the number one cause of injury-related death in the United States, with 43,982 deaths occurring in 2013. While much attention has been given to deaths involving opioid analgesics, in recent years there has been a steady increase in the number of drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin. A recent study using data from 28 states reported that the death rate for heroin overdose doubled from 2010 through 2012.
Using data from the National Vital Statistics System, a new NCHS report provides a description of trends and demographics for heroin-related drug-poisoning deaths in the United States from 2000 through 2013.
Key Findings from the Report:
- From 2000 through 2013, the age-adjusted rate for drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin nearly quadrupled from 0.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2000 to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2013. Most of the increase occurred after 2010.
- The number of drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin was nearly four times higher for men (6,525 deaths) than women (1,732 deaths) in 2013.
- In 2000, non-Hispanic black persons aged 45–64 had the highest rate for drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin (2.0 per 100,000). In 2013, non-Hispanic white persons aged 18–44 had the highest rate (7.0 per 100,000).
- From 2000 through 2013, the age-adjusted rate for drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin increased for all regions of the country, with the greatest increase seen in the Midwest.