Annual Causes of Death in the United States

Related Chapters:
Opioid Crisis
Overdose
•• Chapters on Specific Controlled Substances
•• Chapters Relating to Harm Reduction

Datatable:
Leading Causes of Death in the US

Page last updated October 13, 2020 by Doug McVay, Editor/Senior Policy Analyst.

1. Annual Number of Deaths By Selected Causes in the US, Including Deaths Attributed to Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use


Cause of death (Data from 2017 unless otherwise noted) Number
All Causes 2,813,503
Major Cardiovascular Diseases [MCD] 854,390
   Diseases of Heart [subset of MCD]    647,457
   Cerebrovascular Diseases [subset of MCD]    146,383
   Essential Hypertension and Hypertensive Renal Disease [subset of MCD]    35,316
Malignant Neoplasms [Cancer] 599,108
Deaths Attributed to Tobacco Smoking (Each year from 2005 through 2009)1 480,320
Medical Errors (2013 estimate) 251,454
Accidents (Unintentional Injuries) [Total] 169,936
   Motor Vehicle Accidents [subset of Total Accidents]    40,231
Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases 160,201
Alzheimer's Disease 121,404
Diabetes Mellitus 83,564
Drug-Induced Deaths2 73,990
Influenza and Pneumonia 55,672
Nephritis, Nephrotic Syndrome and Nephrosis 50,633
Intentional Self-Harm (Suicide) 47,173
Chronic Liver Disease and Cirrhosis 41,743
   Alcoholic Liver Disease [subset of Chronic Liver Disease and Cirrhosis]    22,246
Septicemia 40,922
Injury by Firearms 39,773
Alcohol-Induced Deaths 35,823
Parkinson Disease 31,963
Pneumonitis Due to Solids and Liquids 20,108
Assault (Homicide) 19,510
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Disease 5,698
Viral Hepatitis 5,611
All Illicit Drugs Combined (2000)3 17,0002
Cannabis (Marijuana)4 0

2016 Data Detailing Drug-Induced Deaths,
Breaking Out Specific Data for Natural and Semi-Synthetic Opioids (including Oxycodone), Synthetic Opioids (including Fentanyl), and Heroin,
as Reported by the CDC7
Total Deaths Attributed to Drug Overdose 63,632
Overdose Deaths Involving Any Opioid 42,249
Overdose Deaths Involving Heroin 15,469
Overdose Deaths Involving Natural and Semi-Synthetic Opioids 14,487
Overdose Deaths Involving Methadone 3,373
Overdose Deaths Involving Synthetic Opioids Other Than Methadone 19,413

2014 Data Detailing Drug-Induced Deaths,
Breaking Out Specific Data for Prescription Analgesics and Heroin,
as Reported by the CDC5
Drug Overdose Total 47,055
Deaths Involving Pharmaceutical Opioid Analgesics 18,893
Deaths Involving Heroin 10,574

2010 Drug Overdose Mortality Data In Detail,
Reported By Paulozzi et al.6
Drug Overdose Total 38,329
Deaths Involving Pharmaceutical Drugs 22,134
Deaths Involving Pharmaceutical Opioids 16,651

1 Estimated number of deaths annually 2005-2009. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014.
2 Re drug-induced deaths: "This category includes deaths from poisoning and medical conditions caused by use of legal or illegal drugs, as well as deaths from poisoning due to medically prescribed and other drugs. It excludes deaths indirectly related to drug use, as well as newborn deaths due to the mother's drug use."

3 Mokdad, Ali H., PhD, James S. Marks, MD, MPH, Donna F. Stroup, PhD, MSc, Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH, "Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000," Journal of the American Medical Association, (March 10, 2004), G225 Vol. 291, No. 10, 1242.

4 No recorded cases of overdose deaths from cannabis have been found in extensive literature reviews, see for example Gable, Robert S., "The Toxicity of Recreational Drugs," American Scientist (Research Triangle Park, NC: Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, May-June 2006) Vol. 94, No. 3, p. 207.

5 CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality File, 2015, last accessed Dec. 11, 2015.

6 Paulozzi et al analyzed mortality figures and found that of 38,329 drug overdose deaths then reported in 2010, pharmaceutical drugs accounted for 22,134 deaths, of which 16,651 were opiod analgesic overdoses. The data were apparently revised slightly between the time the research letter was published in JAMA (February 2013) and release of the CDC's Deaths: Final Data for 2010 publication report, officially dated May 8, 2013.
7 Hedegaard H, Warner M, Miniño AM. Drug overdose deaths in the United States, 1999–2016. NCHS Data Brief, no 294. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2017.

Kochanek KD, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Arias E. Deaths: Final data for 2017. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol 68 no 9. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2019.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/...
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/...
Hedegaard H, Warner M, Miniño AM. Drug overdose deaths in the United States, 1999–2016. NCHS Data Brief, no 294. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2017.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/...
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/...
CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality File, 2015, last accessed Dec. 11, 2015.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/h...
Hedegaard H, Chen LH, Warner M. Drug poisoning deaths involving heroin: United States, 2000–2013. NCHS data brief, no 190. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2015.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/d...
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/d...
Chen LH, Hedegaard H, Warner M. Drug-poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics: United States, 1999–2011. NCHS data brief no. 166.
Hyattsville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2014, p. 1.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/d....
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/h...
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/h...
Christopher M. Jones, PharmD, Karin A. Mack, PhD, and Leonard J. Paulozzi, MD, "Pharmaceutical Overdose Deaths, United States, 2010," Journal of the American Medical Association, February 20, 2013, Vol 309, No. 7, p. 658.
http://jama.jamanetwork.com/ar...
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014. Printed with corrections, January 2014, p. 660, Table 12.4
https://www.surgeongeneral.gov...
https://www.surgeongeneral.gov...
Makary Martin A, Daniel Michael. Medical error—the third leading cause of death in the US. British Medical Journal 2016; 353 :i2139
https://www.bmj.com/content/35...

2. Deaths Attributed To Drug Overdose In The US In 2018

"● In 2018, there were 67,367 drug overdose deaths in the United States, a 4.1% decline from 2017 (70,237 deaths).

"● The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths in 2018 (20.7 per 100,000) was 4.6% lower than in 2017 (21.7).

"● For 14 states and the District of Columbia, the drug overdose death rate was lower in 2018 than in 2017.

"● The rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (drugs such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol) increased by 10%, from 9.0 in 2017 to 9.9 in 2018.

"● From 2012 through 2018, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine more than tripled (from 1.4 to 4.5) and the rate for deaths involving psychostimulants with abuse potential (drugs such as methamphetamine) increased nearly 5-fold (from 0.8 to 3.9)."

Hedegaard H, Miniño AM, Warner M. Drug overdose deaths in the United States, 1999–2018. NCHS Data Brief, no 356. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2020.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/...
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...

3. Deaths in 2017 in the US Attributed to Drug Overdose

"• In 2017, there were 70,237 drug overdose deaths in the United States.

"• The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths in 2017 (21.7 per 100,000) was 9.6% higher than the rate in 2016 (19.8).

"• Adults aged 25–34, 35–44, and 45–54 had higher rates of drug overdose deaths in 2017 than those aged 15–24, 55–64, and 65 and over.

"• West Virginia (57.8 per 100,000), Ohio (46.3), Pennsylvania (44.3), and the District of Columbia (44.0) had the highest age-adjusted drug overdose death rates in 2017.

"• The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (drugs such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol) increased by 45% between 2016 and 2017, from 6.2 to 9.0 per 100,000."

Hedegaard H, Miniño AM, Warner M. Drug overdose deaths in the United States, 1999–2017. NCHS Data Brief, no 329. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2018.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/...

4. Drug Overdose Deaths In 2018 - Demographic Details and Changes from 2017

"During 2018, drug overdoses resulted in 67,367 deaths in the United States, a 4.1% decrease from 2017. Among these drug overdose deaths, 46,802 (69.5%) involved an opioid. From 2017 to 2018, opioid-involved death rates decreased 2.0%, from 14.9 per 100,000 population to 14.6 (Table 1); decreases occurred among females; persons aged 15–34 years and 45–54 years; non-Hispanic whites; and in small metro, micropolitan, and noncore areas; and in the Midwest and South regions. Rates during 2017–2018 increased among persons aged ≥65 years, non-Hispanic blacks, and Hispanics, and in the Northeast and the West regions. Rates decreased in 11 states and DC and increased in three states, with the largest relative (percentage) decrease in Iowa (–30.4%) and the largest absolute decrease (difference in rates) in Ohio (–9.6); the largest relative and absolute increase occurred in Missouri (18.8%, 3.1). The highest opioid-involved death rate in 2018 was in West Virginia (42.4 per 100,000).

"Prescription opioid-involved death rates decreased by 13.5% from 2017 to 2018. Rates decreased in males and females, persons aged 15–64 years, non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Natives, and across all urbanization levels. Prescription opioid–involved death rates remained stable in the Northeast and decreased in the Midwest, South, and the West. Seventeen states experienced declines in prescription opioid–involved death rates, with no states experiencing significant increases. The largest relative decrease occurred in Ohio (–40.5%), whereas the largest absolute decrease occurred in West Virginia (–4.1), which also had the highest prescription opioid-involved death rate in 2018 (13.1 per 100,000).

"Heroin-involved death rates decreased 4.1% from 2017 to 2018; reductions occurred among males and females, persons aged 15–34 years, non-Hispanic whites, and in large central metro and large fringe metro areas (Table 2). Rates decreased in the Midwest and increased in the West. Rates decreased in seven states and DC and increased in three states from 2017 to 2018. The largest relative decrease occurred in Kentucky (50.0%), and the largest absolute decrease occurred ††† Z-tests were used if the number of deaths was ≥100; a p-value of <0.05 was considered to be statistically significant. Nonoverlapping confidence intervals based on the gamma method were used if the number of deaths was <100 in 2017 or 2018. This method of comparing confidence intervals is a conservative method for estimating statistical significance; caution should be observed when interpreting a nonsignificant difference when the lower and upper limits being compared overlap only slightly. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/.... in DC (–7.1); the largest relative and absolute increase was in Tennessee (18.8%, 0.9). The highest heroin-involved death rate in 2018 was in Vermont (12.5 per 100,000).

"Death rates involving synthetic opioids increased from 9.0 per 100,000 population in 2017 to 9.9 in 2018 and accounted for 67.0% of opioid-involved deaths in 2018. These rates increased from 2017 to 2018 among males and females, persons aged ≥25 years, non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islanders, and in large central metro, large fringe metro, medium metro, and small metro counties. Synthetic opioid–involved death rates increased in the Northeast, South and West and remained stable in the Midwest. Rates increased in 10 states and decreased in two states. The largest relative increase occurred in Arizona (92.5%), and the largest absolute increase occurred in Maryland and Missouri (4.4 per 100,000 in both states); the largest relative and absolute decrease was in Ohio (–20.7%, –6.7). The highest synthetic opioid–involved death rate in 2018 occurred in West Virginia (34.0 per 100,000)."

Wilson N, Kariisa M, Seth P, Smith H IV, Davis NL. Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths — United States, 2017–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:290–297. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmw...
https://www.cdc.gov/...

5. Drugs Most Frequently Mentioned in Overdose Deaths in the US 2011-2016

"The number of drug overdose deaths per year increased 54%, from 41,340 deaths in 2011 to 63,632 deaths in 2016 (Table A). From the literal text analysis, the percentage of drug overdose deaths mentioning at least one specific drug or substance increased from 73% of the deaths in 2011 to 85% of the deaths in 2016. The percentage of drug overdose deaths that mentioned only a drug class but not a specific drug or substance declined from 5.1% of deaths in 2011 to 2.5% in 2016. Review of the literal text for these deaths indicated that the deaths that mentioned only a drug class frequently involved either an opioid or an opiate (ranging from 54% in 2015 to 60% in 2016). The percentage of deaths that did not mention a specific drug or substance or a drug class declined from 22% of drug overdose deaths in 2011 to 13% in 2016."

Hedegaard H, Bastian BA, Trinidad JP, Spencer M, Warner M. Drugs most frequently involved in drug overdose deaths: United States, 2011–2016. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol 67 no 9. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2018.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/...

6. Drug Overdose Deaths in the US Involving Cocaine and Psychostimulants On the Rise

"Deaths involving cocaine and psychostimulants have increased in the United States in recent years; among 70,237 drug overdose deaths in 2017, nearly a third (23,139 [32.9%]) involved cocaine, psychostimulants, or both. From 2016 to 2017, death rates involving cocaine and psychostimulants each increased by approximately one third, and increases occurred across all demographic groups, Census regions, and in several states. In 2017, nearly three fourths of cocaine-involved and roughly one half of psychostimulant-involved overdose deaths, respectively, involved at least one opioid. After initially peaking in 2006, trends in overall cocaine-involved death rates declined through 2012, when they began to rise again. The 2006–2012 decrease paralleled a decline in cocaine supply coupled with an increase in cost. Similar patterns in death rates involving both cocaine and opioids were observed, with increases for cocaine- and synthetic opioid-involved deaths occurring from 2012 to 2017. From 2010 to 2017, increasing rates of deaths involving psychostimulants occurred and persisted even in the absence of opioids."

Kariisa M, Scholl L, Wilson N, Seth P, Hoots B. Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Cocaine and Psychostimulants with Abuse Potential — United States, 2003–2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:388–395. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmw...
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volum...

7. Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths in the US

"Of the 70,237 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2017, approximately two thirds (47,600) involved an opioid (1). In recent years, increases in opioid-involved overdose deaths have been driven primarily by deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (hereafter referred to as synthetic opioids) (1). CDC analyzed changes in age-adjusted death rates from 2017 to 2018 involving all opioids and opioid subcategories* by demographic characteristics, county urbanization levels, U.S. Census region, and state. During 2018, a total of 67,367 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, a 4.1% decline from 2017; 46,802 (69.5%) involved an opioid (2). From 2017 to 2018, deaths involving all opioids, prescription opioids, and heroin decreased 2%, 13.5%, and 4.1%, respectively. However, deaths involving synthetic opioids increased 10%, likely driven by illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF), including fentanyl analogs (1,3)."

Wilson N, Kariisa M, Seth P, Smith H 4th, Davis NL. Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths - United States, 2017-2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020;69(11):290‐297. Published 2020 Mar 20. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6911a4
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/...

8. Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Drug Overdose Deaths in the US 2011–2016

"For the top 15 drugs:

"• Among drug overdose deaths that mentioned at least one specific drug, oxycodone ranked first in 2011,heroin from 2012 through 2015, and fentanyl in 2016.

"• In 2011 and 2012, fentanyl was mentioned in approximately 1,600 drug overdose deaths each year, but mentions increased in 2013 (1,919 deaths),2014 (4,223 deaths), 2015 (8,251 deaths), and 2016(18,335 deaths). In 2016, 29% of all drug overdose deaths mentioned involvement of fentanyl.

"• The number of drug overdose deaths involving heroin increased threefold, from 4,571 deaths or 11% of all drug overdose deaths in 2011 to 15,961 deaths or 25% of all drug overdose deaths in 2016.

"• Throughout the study period, cocaine ranked second or third among the top 15 drugs. From 2014 through 2016, the number of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine nearly doubled from 5,892 to 11,316.

"• The number of drug overdose deaths involving methamphetamine increased 3.6-fold, from 1,887 deaths in 2011 to 6,762 deaths in 2016.

"• The number of drug overdose deaths involving methadone decreased from 4,545 deaths in 2011 to 3,493 deaths in 2016."

Hedegaard H, Bastian BA, Trinidad JP, Spencer M, Warner M. Drugs most frequently involved in drug overdose deaths: United States, 2011–2016. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol 67 no 9. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2018.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/...

9. Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Drug Overdose Deaths in the US 2011–2016

"The percentage of deaths with concomitant involvement of other drugs varied by drug. For example, almost all drug overdose deaths involving alprazolam or diazepam (96%) mentioned involvement of other drugs. In contrast, 50% of the drug overdose deaths involving methamphetamine, and 69% of the drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl mentioned involvement of one or more other specific drugs.

"Table D shows the most frequent concomitant drug mentions for each of the top 10 drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in 2016.

"• Two in five overdose deaths involving cocaine also mentioned fentanyl.

"• Nearly one-third of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl also mentioned heroin (32%).

"• Alprazolam was mentioned in 26% of the overdose deaths involving hydrocodone, 22% of the deaths involving methadone, and 25% of the deaths involving oxycodone.

"• More than one-third of the overdose deaths involving cocaine also mentioned heroin (34%).

"• More than 20% of the overdose deaths involving methamphetamine also mentioned heroin."

Hedegaard H, Bastian BA, Trinidad JP, Spencer M, Warner M. Drugs most frequently involved in drug overdose deaths: United States, 2011–2016. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol 67 no 9. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2018.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/...

10. Deaths Attributed to Drug Overdose in the US, 2017

According to the Centers for Disease Control, using data available for analysis on September 5, 2018, there were a reported 70,652 deaths attributed to drug overdose in the US for the year ending December 2017. Some deaths were still under investigation. The CDC projects that the total for 2017 will be 72,222.

Of these:
Opioids were detected in 47,863 reported deaths, and are predicted to be involved in 49,031 deaths.
Synthetic opioids, excluding methadone, were detected in 28,644 reported deaths, and are predicted to be involved in 28,644 deaths.
Heroin was detected in 15,585 reported deaths, and is predicted to be involved in 15,941 deaths.
Natural and semi-synthetic opioids were detected in 14,553 reported deaths, and are predicted to be involved in 14,940 deaths.
Cocaine was detected in 14,065 reported deaths, and is predicted to be involved in 14,612 deaths.
Psychostimulants with abuse potential were detected in 10,420 reported deaths, and are predicted to be involved in 10,703 deaths.
Methadone was detected in 3,209 reported deaths, and is predicted to be involved in 3,286 deaths.

Note: Categories are not mutually exclusive because deaths may involve more than one drug.

Ahmad FB, Rossen LM, Spencer MR, Warner M, Sutton P. Provisional drug overdose death counts. National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control. 2018. Last accessed September 13, 2018.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/...

11. Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Cocaine in the US 2009 Through 2018

"• In 2018, there were 14,666 drug overdose deaths involving cocaine in the United States for an age-adjusted rate of 4.5 per 100,000 standard population (Figure 1)."

"• The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine remained stable from 2009 through 2013 ranging from 1.3 to 1.6 per 100,000, then increased on average by 27% per year from 2013 through 2018.

"• For males, the rate increased from 2.1 in 2009 to 6.4 in 2018. For females, the rate increased from 0.7 in 2009 to 2.6 in 2018. For each year, rates were 2.4 to 3.0 times higher for males than females."

Hedegaard H, Spencer MR, Garnett MF. Increase in drug overdose deaths involving cocaine: United States, 2009–2018. NCHS Data Brief, no 384. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2020.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...

12. Drug Overdose Deaths In the US Involving Cocaine 2009 Through 2018

"• Throughout the study period, the rates of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine were highest for the non-Hispanic black population, followed by non-Hispanic white and the Hispanic population (Figure 3).

"• In 2018, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine in the non-Hispanic black population (9.0 per 100,000) was nearly twice that of the non-Hispanic white population (4.6) and three times that of the Hispanic population (3.0).

"• In general, for each group, the rate remained stable from 2009 through 2013–2014, then increased in subsequent years. The rate for the non-Hispanic white population was the same in 2017 and 2018 (4.6)."

Hedegaard H, Spencer MR, Garnett MF. Increase in drug overdose deaths involving cocaine: United States, 2009–2018. NCHS Data Brief, no 384. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2020.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...

13. Changes in Synthetic Opioid Involvement in Overdose Deaths in the US and Involvement of Other Drugs in Combination

"Among the 42 249 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016, 19,413 involved synthetic opioids, 17,087 involved prescription opioids, and 15,469 involved heroin. Synthetic opioid involvement in these deaths increased significantly from 3007 (14.3% of opioid-related deaths) in 2010 to 19,413 (45.9%) in 2016 (P for trend <.01). Significant increases in synthetic opioid involvement in overdose deaths involving prescription opioids, heroin, and all other illicit or psychotherapeutic drugs were found from 2010 through 2016 (Table).

"Among synthetic opioid–related overdose deaths in 2016, 79.7% involved another drug or alcohol. The most common co-involved substances were another opioid (47.9%), heroin (29.8%), cocaine (21.6%), prescription opioids (20.9%), benzodiazepines (17.0%), alcohol (11.1%), psychostimulants (5.4%), and antidepressants (5.2%) (Figure)."

Jones CM, Einstein EB, Compton WM. Changes in Synthetic Opioid Involvement in Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 2010-2016. JAMA. 2018;319(17):1819–1821. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.2844
https://jamanetwork.com/journa...

14. Factors That May Skew Estimates of Overdose Deaths Attributed to Specific Drugs, Particularly Opioids

"First, factors related to death investigation might affect rate estimates involving specific drugs. At autopsy, the substances tested for, and circumstances under which tests are performed to determine which drugs are present, might vary by jurisdiction and over time. Second, the percentage of deaths with specific drugs identified on the death certificate varies by jurisdiction and over time. Nationally, 19% (in 2014) and 17% (in 2015) of drug overdose death certificates did not include the specific types of drugs involved. Additionally, the percentage of drug overdose deaths with specific drugs identified on the death certificate varies widely by state, ranging from 47.4% to 99%. Variations in reporting across states prevent comparison of rates between states. Third, improvements in testing and reporting of specific drugs might have contributed to some observed increases in opioid-involved death rates. Fourth, because heroin and morphine are metabolized similarly (9), some heroin deaths might have been misclassified as morphine deaths, resulting in underreporting of heroin deaths. Finally the state-specific analyses of opioid deaths are restricted to 28 states, limiting generalizability."

Rudd RA, Seth P, David F, Scholl L. Increases in Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths — United States, 2010–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1445–1452. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmw...
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volum...
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volum...

15. Growth of Fentanyl Related Deaths in the US

"Preliminary estimates of U.S. drug overdose deaths exceeded 60,000 in 2016 and were partially driven by a fivefold increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids (excluding methadone), from 3,105 in 2013 to approximately 20,000 in 2016 (1,2). Illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50–100 times more potent than morphine, is primarily responsible for this rapid increase (3,4). In addition, fentanyl analogs such as acetylfentanyl, furanylfentanyl, and carfentanil are being detected increasingly in overdose deaths (5,6) and the illicit opioid drug supply (7). Carfentanil is estimated to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine (8). Estimates of the potency of acetylfentanyl and furanylfentanyl vary but suggest that they are less potent than fentanyl (9). Estimates of relative potency have some uncertainty because illicit fentanyl analog potency has not been evaluated in humans."

Julie K. O’Donnell, PhD; John Halpin, MD; Christine L. Mattson, PhD; Bruce A. Goldberger, PhD; R. Matthew Gladden, PhD. Deaths Involving Fentanyl, Fentanyl Analogs, and U-47700 — 10 States, July–December 2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Vol. 66. Centers for Disease Control. October 27, 2017.
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volum...

16. Estimated Economic Impact of Illegal Opioid Use and Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths

The White House Council of Economic Advisers [CEA] released its analysis of the economic costs of illegal opioid use, related overdoses, and overdose mortality in November 2017. It reported a dramatically higher estimate than previous analyses, largely due to a change in methodology. Previous analyses had used a person's estimated lifetime earnings to place a dollar value on that person's life. According to the CEA, "We diverge from the previous literature by quantifying the costs of opioid-related overdose deaths based on economic valuations of fatality risk reduction, the “value of a statistical life” (VSL)."

The CEA noted that "According to a recent white paper prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Policy for review by the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (U.S. EPA 2016), the EPA’s current guidance calls for using a VSL estimate of $10.1 million (in 2015 dollars), updated from earlier estimates based on inflation, income growth, and assumed income elasticities. Guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) suggests using the range of estimates from Robinson and Hammitt (2016) referenced earlier, ranging from a low of $4.4 million to a high of $14.3 million with a central value of $9.4 million (in 2015 dollars). The central estimates used by these three agencies, DOT, EPA, and HHS, range from a low of $9.4 million (HHS) to a high of $10.1 million (EPA) (in 2015 dollars)."

In addition, the CEA assumed that the number of opioid-related overdoses in the US in 2015 was significantly under-reported. According to its report, "However, recent research has found that opioids are underreported on death certificates. Ruhm (2017) estimates that in 2014, opioid-involved overdose deaths were 24 percent higher than officially reported.4 We apply this adjustment to the 2015 data, resulting in an estimated 41,033 overdose deaths involving opioids. We apply this adjustment uniformly over the age distribution of fatalities."

The combination of that assumption with the methodology change resulted in a dramatically higher cost estimate than previous research had shows. According to the CEA, "CEA’s preferred cost estimate of $504.0 billion far exceeds estimates published elsewhere. Table 3 shows the cost estimates from several past studies of the cost of the opioid crisis, along with the ratio of the CEA estimate to each study’s estimate in 2015 dollars. Compared to the recent Florence et al. (2016) study—which estimated the cost of prescription opioid abuse in 2013—CEA’s preferred estimate is more than six times higher, reported in the table’s last column as the ratio of $504.0 billion to $79.9 billion, which is Florence et al.’s estimate adjusted to 2015 dollars. Even CEA’s low total cost estimate of $293.9 billion is 3.7 times higher than Florence et al.’s estimate."

In contrast, the CEA noted that "Among the most recent (and largest) estimates was that produced by Florence et al. (2016), who estimated that prescription opioid overdose, abuse, and dependence in the United States in 2013 cost $78.5 billion. The authors found that 73 percent of this cost was attributed to nonfatal consequences, including healthcare spending, criminal justice costs and lost productivity due to addiction and incarceration. The remaining 27 percent was attributed to fatality costs consisting almost entirely of lost potential earnings." According to the CDC, there were 25,840 deaths in 2013 related to an opioid overdose.

According to the CEA, "We also present cost estimates under three alternative VSL assumptions without age-adjustment: low ($5.4 million), middle ($9.6 million), and high ($13.4 million), values suggested by the U.S. DOT and similar to those used by HHS. For example, our low fatality cost estimate of $221.6 billion is the product of the adjusted number of fatalities, 41,033, and the VSL assumption of $5.4 million. Our fatality cost estimates thus range from a low of $221.6 billion to a high of $549.8 billion."

"The Underestimated Cost of the Opioid Crisis," Council of Economic Advisers, Executive Office of the President of the United States, November 2017.
https://www.whitehouse.gov/sit...
Warner M, Trinidad JP, Bastian BA, et al. Drugs most frequently involved in drug overdose deaths: United States, 2010–2014. National vital statistics reports; vol 65 no 10. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2016. Table B, p. 64.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/...
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...

17. Rates Of Alcohol-Induced Deaths In The US Increased From 2008 To 2018

"• Age-adjusted rates of alcohol-induced deaths among all persons aged 25 and over were stable from 2000 to 2006 at about 10.7 per 100,000, then increased 43% to 15.3 in 2018 (Figure 1).

"• For males aged 25 and over, rates were stable from 2000 to 2005, then increased 34% from 2005 through 2018, from 16.9 to 22.6.

"• For females aged 25 and over, rates increased 76% from 2000 through 2018, from 4.9 to 8.6.

"• For each year, rates of alcohol-induced deaths for males aged 25 and over were higher than for females."

Spencer MR, Curtin SC, Hedegaard H. Rates of alcohol-induced deaths among adults aged 25 and over in rural and urban areas: United States, 2000–2018. NCHS Data Brief, no 383. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2020.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...

18. Alcohol as a Factor in Overdose Deaths Attributed to Other Drugs in the US

"In 2014, alcohols, including ethanol and isopropyl alcohol, were involved in 15% of all drug overdose deaths and 17% of the drug overdose deaths that mentioned involvement of at least one specific drug. Table E shows the frequency of alcohol involvement among drug overdose deaths involving specific drugs.

"• Alcohol involvement was mentioned in 12%–22% of the drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl, heroin, hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, alprazolam, diazepam, or cocaine.

"• Alcohol involvement was mentioned in less than 10% of the drug overdose deaths involving methadone and methamphetamine."

Warner M, Trinidad JP, Bastian BA, et al. Drugs most frequently involved in drug overdose deaths: United States, 2010–2014. National vital statistics reports; vol 65 no 10. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2016, pp. 5-6.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/...

19. Estimated Annual Number of Deaths Caused by Tobacco Use in the US - Mortality Data

"The 2014 Surgeon General's report estimates that cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States.1 This widely cited estimate of the mortality burden of smoking may be an underestimate, because it considers deaths only from the 21 diseases that have been formally established as caused by smoking (12 types of cancer, 6 categories of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], and pneumonia including influenza). Associations between smoking and the 30 most common causes of death in the United Kingdom in the Million Women Study suggest that the excess mortality observed among current smokers cannot be fully explained by these 21 diseases.2

Brian D. Carter, M.P.H., Christian C. Abnet, Ph.D., et al., "Smoking and Mortality — Beyond Established Causes," New England Journal of Medicine, Feb 12, 2015;372:631-40. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa1407211.
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/1...

20. Alternative Estimate of Total Number of Deaths In the US Caused By Tobacco Use

"Our results suggest that the Surgeon General's recent estimate of smoking-attributable mortality may have been an underestimate. The Surgeon General's estimate, which took into account only the 21 diseases formally established as caused by smoking, was that approximately 437,000 deaths among adults are caused each year by active smoking (not including secondhand smoke). However, the Surgeon General’s report presents an alternative estimate of 556,000 deaths among adults on the basis of the excess mortality from all causes. The difference between these two estimates is nearly 120,000 deaths.1 If, as suggested by the results in our cohort, at least half of this difference is due to associations of smoking with diseases that are causal but are not yet formally established as such, then at least 60,000 additional deaths each year among U.S. men and women may be caused by cigarette smoking."

Brian D. Carter, M.P.H., Christian C. Abnet, Ph.D., et al., "Smoking and Mortality - Beyond Established Causes," New England Journal of Medicine, Feb 12, 2015;372:631-40. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa1407211.
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/1...

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