Drug overdose deaths have risen steadily over the past decade. The most robust data came from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveys in 2017, when it was reported that 70,237 drug overdose deaths occurred in that year alone.
Unfortunately, the most accurate reporting often comes a few years later. However, the CDC is using new methods of collecting overdose data that is improving the timeliness of reporting. As of April 2019, they found 67,123 reported cases of overdose deaths in the 12 months prior and predicted that the true number was around 69,294.
They also reported overdose deaths on a state-by-state basis between April 2018 and April 2019; however, the data are incomplete. The most comprehensive data on overdose rates by state come from a 2017 report. According to both reports, West Virginia had the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths considering their population size. Pennsylvania had the most overdose deaths in 2017 with 5,388. In 2019, California is estimated to have 5,899 as of April.
Overdose rates may change year to year with the opioid epidemic. However, the East Coast seems to be the epicenter for much of opioid use and overdose in the United States. The Northeast and Midwest are particularly affected. However, areas of the South, including West Virginia and Kentucky have also been significantly affected.
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Although the state has the lowest population in the top four, it has the highest rate of overdose deaths, with 966 deaths estimated for the 12 months leading up to April 2019.
The state was hit hard by the opioid epidemic and saw a total of 5,111 overdose deaths in 2019. In 2017, they saw more than 4,000 deaths by overdoses involving opioids.
The state has the highest population in the top five and saw the most overdose deaths in 2017. In 2019, they are likely to have close to 5,000 overdose deaths.
Kentucky shares a border with the top two states for opioid overdose, and it has also been significantly affected. It sees a rate of 27.9 deaths per 100,000 people.
The state has the smallest population in the top five, but it had 467 overdose deaths in 2017. It’s estimated that there were 440 in the year before April 2019.
Overdose death rates can be influenced by many factors in communities and states, and at the national level.
Drug availability is one of the most significant factors in addiction and overdose rates.
High excessive drug prescribing can cause the excess to fall into the wrong hands.
For instance, most illicit heroin users report starting with prescription opioids.
However, illicit drug availability accounts for much of the drug abuse and overdose in the United States.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment,
Mexican transnational criminal organizations have a significant presence in the United States, and they continue to traffic heroin, cocaine, and other illicit substances.
CDC. (2019, December 11). Products – Vital Statistics Rapid Release – Provisional Drug Overdose Data. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/drug-overdose-data.htm
CDC. (2019, January 10). Drug Overdose Mortality by State. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/drug_poisoning_mortality/drug_poisoning.htm
DEA. (2018). 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA). Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/documents/2018/10/02/2018-national-drug-threat-assessment-ndta
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Prescription opioid use is a risk factor for heroin use. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-heroin-abuse/prescription-opioid-use-risk-factor-heroin-use
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, March 30). Kentucky Opioid Summary. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-summaries-by-state/kentucky-opioid-involved-deaths-related-harms