For the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated news headlines, but there is a second health crisis happening in America. Our team of analysts found that drug overdose deaths have risen 50% since 2019 and are now over 100,000 a year.

Key findings:

  • Nationwide, 103,664 people died of an overdose in 2021, compared to 68,757 in 2019 and 99,973 in 2020.
  • Alaska, New Hampshire and Idaho have had the highest increases in overdose-related deaths since 2020.
  • West Virginia, Louisiana and Tennessee have the highest rates of overdose deaths.
  • Combined, opioids account for nearly 70% of overdose deaths.

The number of overdose-related deaths has been rising steadily since 2015. However, deaths increased greatly almost as soon as the coronavirus pandemic began. We found that overdose-related deaths increased from 68,000 in 2019 to 103,000 in the last year.

The increase in overdose-related deaths has impacted each state differently. Alaska, New Hampshire and Idaho have seen the highest increases in overdose deaths, but in all, 10 states have seen overdose deaths rise by nearly 20% or more. Virginia and West Virginia are two of the nine states that have seen a decrease in deaths over the last year.

Overdose deaths in America
State Overdose deaths in the last year % change in overdose deaths
Alaska 256 44%
New Hampshire 467 26%
Idaho 360 24%
South Dakota 95 22%
Vermont 253 21%
Kansas 670 20%
Maine 633 20%
Montana 195 20%
Washington 2,267 20%
Wyoming 115 19%
Georgia 2,437 17%
Oklahoma 917 16%
Arkansas 629 16%
New Mexico 1,042 16%
Alabama 1,299 16%
Colorado 1,909 15%
Iowa 489 15%
South Carolina 2,185 15%
Louisiana 2,535 14%
Minnesota 1,332 12%
Oregon 1,045 12%
Indiana 2,765 11%
Rhode Island 455 11%
Illinois 3,883 10%
Wisconsin 1,754 10%
North Dakota 132 8%
Connecticut 1,533 8%
Delaware 496 8%
North Carolina 3,702 7%
Missouri 2,151 7%
Tennessee 3,771 7%
Massachusetts 2,551 6%
Texas 4,833 5%
New Jersey 2,973 3%
Nevada 1,016 3%
Mississippi 676 3%
Hawaii 271 2%
Florida 7,995 2%
California 10,458 1%
Pennsylvania 5,319 0%
New York 2,995 0%
Kentucky 2,307 -1%
Arizona 2,682 -2%
Michigan 2,875 -3%
Nebraska 205 -3%
Utah 642 -4%
Ohio 5,185 -7%
Maryland 2,610 -9%
West Virginia 1,327 -15%
Virginia 1,719 -31%
United States 103,664 4%

Opioids are the leading cause of overdose deaths. Since 2015, opioids have accounted for nearly 80,000 deaths, 34% of all drug overdoses. If we factor in synthetic, natural and semi-synthetic opioids, then the number of opioid-related deaths since 2015 rises to 160,000 — 70% of all overdose deaths.

Increase in Drug Related Deaths Since 2016

2021 Deaths by Drug overdose

The dramatic rise in opioid-related overdose deaths hasn’t gone unnoticed. President Joe Biden recently unveiled a five-part plan to address the growing number of overdose deaths. One key component of the plan is a $125 billion expansion of prevention, treatment and recovery services. Health care coverage varies by state, but most health insurance plans cover substance abuse treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please consult the resource below.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Methodology

Overdose death statistics were compiled using data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data was then broken down on a state-by-state and year-over-year basis.

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