For the last year, 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 by nearly 27% in the last year. Nationwide, more than 87,000 people died of an overdose in 2020, nearly 20,000 more than in 2019.

Key findings:

  • Nationwide, 87,203 people died of an overdose in 2020, compared to 68,757 in 2019.
  • Louisiana, Kentucky and West Virginia have had the highest increases in overdose-related deaths.
  • Pennsylvania, Florida and California had the highest numbers of overdose deaths overall.
  • Combined, opioids account for nearly 70% of overdose deaths.

The increase in overdose-related deaths has struck some states particularly hard. Louisiana, Kentucky and West Virginia saw increases of nearly 50% or more, while 18 other states had 30% or more increases in overdose-related deaths. South Dakota is the only state that saw a decrease in overdose deaths.

Overdose deaths in America 2019-2020
State # of overdose deaths in 2019 # of overdose deaths in 2020 % change in overdose deaths 2019-2020 Additional overdose deaths
Louisiana 1,185 1,816 53.2% 631
Kentucky 1,300 1,939 49.2% 639
West Virginia 811 1,208 49.0% 397
Colorado 1,038 1,478 42.4% 440
South Carolina 1,107 1,568 41.6% 461
Tennessee 2,033 2,865 40.9% 832
Florida 5,251 7,394 40.8% 2,143
Wyoming 69 96 39.1% 27
Mississippi 335 465 38.8% 130
Virginia 1,451 2,013 38.7% 562
Maine 334 462 38.3% 128
Arkansas 354 486 37.3% 132
Arizona 1,899 2,580 35.9% 681
California 6,091 8,256 35.5% 2,165
Nebraska 149 200 34.2% 51
Texas 2,956 3,968 34.2% 1,012
Iowa 316 418 32.3% 102
Minnesota 753 995 32.1% 242
Indiana 1,637 2,151 31.4% 514
Alabama 719 944 31.3% 225
Illinois 2,687 3,511 30.7% 824
Washington 1,223 1,563 27.8% 340
Wisconsin 1,167 1,480 26.8% 313
New Mexico 574 721 25.6% 147
New York 2,116 2,649 25.2% 533
Georgia 1,380 1,716 24.3% 336
Oregon 595 736 23.7% 141
Ohio 4,117 5,050 22.7% 933
Pennsylvania 4,269 5,096 19.4% 827
Missouri 1,596 1,902 19.2% 306
Vermont 130 154 18.5% 24
Hawaii 231 271 17.3% 40
Rhode Island 334 391 17.1% 57
Oklahoma 609 709 16.4% 100
Michigan 2,338 2,684 14.8% 346
Idaho 247 280 13.4% 33
Delaware 416 469 12.7% 53
Utah 547 616 12.6% 69
Maryland 2,341 2,606 11.3% 265
Kansas 376 418 11.2% 42
Nevada 739 814 10.1% 75
Connecticut 1,185 1,291 8.9% 106
New Jersey 2,721 2,926 7.5% 205
Massachusetts 2,153 2,305 7.1% 152
North Dakota 84 90 7.1% 6
Montana 137 145 5.8% 8
Alaska 136 140 2.9% 4
New Hampshire 400 409 2.2% 9
North Carolina 2,256 2,261 0.2% 5
South Dakota 84 80 -4.8% -4

Opioids are the leading cause of overdose deaths. Since 2015, opioids have accounted for nearly 65,000 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 129,000 — 70% of all overdose deaths.

Increase in Drug Related Deaths Since 2015

2020 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.