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.

21. Drug Poisoning Deaths In The US 2013, and Trends 1999-2013

"In 2013, a total of 43,982 deaths in the United States were attributed to drug poisoning, including 16,235 deaths (37%) involving opioid analgesics. From 1999 to 2013, the drug poisoning death rate more than doubled from 6.1 to 13.8 per 100,000 population, and the rate for drug poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics nearly quadrupled from 1.4 to 5.1 per 100,000. For both drug poisoning and drug poisoning involving opioid analgesics, the death rate increased at a faster pace from 1999 to 2006 than from 2006 to 2013."

Li-Hui Chen, PhD; Holly Hedegaard, MD; Margaret Warner, PhD. Rates of Deaths from Drug Poisoning and Drug Poisoning Involving Opioid Analgesics — United States, 1999–2013. Centers for Disease Control. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Vol. 64, No. 1. January 16, 2015, p. 32.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/d...

22. Increasing Involvement Of Benzodiazepines In Opioid Overdose Mortality In The US

"In 2011, 5,188 opioid-analgesic poisoning deaths also involved benzodiazepines (sedatives used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures), up from 527 such deaths in 1999 (Figure 3). From 2006 through 2011, the number of opioid-analgesic poisoning deaths involving benzodiazepines increased 14% on average each year, while the number of opioid-analgesic poisoning deaths not involving benzodiazepines did not change significantly."

Chen, LH, Hedegaard, H, and Warner, M. Drug-poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics: United States, 1999–2011. NCHS data brief, No. 166. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2014, p. 3.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/d...
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23. Polydrug Involvement in Pharmaceutical Overdose Deaths in the US

"Opioids were frequently implicated in overdose deaths involving other pharmaceuticals. They were involved in the majority of deaths involving benzodiazepines (77.2%), antiepileptic and antiparkinsonism drugs (65.5%), antipsychotic and neuroleptic drugs (58.0%), antidepressants (57.6%), other analgesics, antipyretics, and antirheumatics (56.5%), and other psychotropic drugs (54.2%). Among overdose deaths due to psychotherapeutic and central nervous system pharmaceuticals, the proportion involving only a single class of such drugs was highest for opioids (4903/16 651; 29.4%) and lowest for benzodiazepines (239/6497; 3.7%)."

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...

24. The Burden of Opioid-Related Mortality in the United States

"Over the 15-year study period, 335,123 opioid-related deaths in the United States met our inclusion criteria, with an increase of 345% from 9489 in 2001 (33.3 deaths per million population) to 42,245 in 2016 (130.7 deaths per million population). By 2016, men accounted for 67.5% of all opioid-related deaths (n = 28,496), and the median (interquartile range) age at death was 40 (30-52) years. The proportion of deaths attributable to opioids increased over the study period, rising 292% (from 0.4% [1 in 255] to 1.5% [1 in 65]), and increased steadily over time in each age group studied (P < .001 for all age groups) (Figure). The largest absolute increase between 2001 and 2016 was observed among those aged 25 to 34 years (15.8% increase from 4.2% in 2001 to 20.0% in 2016), followed by those aged 15 to 24 years (9.4% increase from 2.9% to 12.4%). However, the largest relative increases occurred among adults aged 55 to 64 years (754% increase from 0.2% to 1.7%) and those aged 65 years and older (635% increase from 0.01% to 0.07%). Despite the fact that confirmed opioid-related deaths represent a small percentage of all deaths in these older age groups, the absolute number of deaths is moderate. In 2016, 18.4% (7762 of 42,245) of all opioid-related deaths in the United States occurred among those aged 55 years and older.

"In our analysis of the burden of early loss of life from opioid overdose, we found that opioid-related deaths were responsible for 1,681,359 YLL [Years of Life Lost] (5.2 YLL per 1000 population) in the United States in 2016 (Table); however, this varied by age and sex. In particular, when stratified by age, adults aged 25 to 34 years and those aged 35 to 44 years experienced the highest burden from opioid-related deaths (12.9 YLL per 1000 population and 9.9 YLL per 1000 population, respectively). We also found that the burden of opioid-related death was higher among men (1,125,711 YLL; 7.0 YLL per 1000 population) compared with women (555,648 YLL; 3.4 YLL per 1000 population). Importantly, among men aged 25 to 34 years, this rate increased to 18.1 YLL per 1000 population, and the total YLL in this population represented nearly one-quarter of all YLL in the United States in 2016 (411,805 of 1,681,359 [24.5%])."

Gomes T, Tadrous M, Mamdani MM, Paterson JM, Juurlink DN. The Burden of Opioid-Related Mortality in the United States. JAMA Network Open. 2018;1(2):e180217. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0217
https://jamanetwork.com/journa...

25. Role of Psychopharmaceuticals in Overdose Deaths

"This analysis confirms the predominant role opioid analgesics play in pharmaceutical overdose deaths, either alone or in combination with other drugs. It also, however, highlights the frequent involvement of drugs typically prescribed for mental health conditions such as benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and antipsychotics in overdose deaths. People with mental health disorders are at increased risk for heavy therapeutic use, nonmedical use, and overdose of opioids.4-6 Screening, identification, and appropriate management of such disorders is an important part of both behavioral health and chronic pain management."

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. 659.
http://jama.jamanetwork.com/ar...

26. Deaths from Drug Overdose in the United States in 2015

"During 2015, drug overdoses accounted for 52,404 U.S. deaths, including 33,091 (63.1%) that involved an opioid. There has been progress in preventing methadone deaths, and death rates declined by 9.1%. However, rates of deaths involving other opioids, specifically heroin and synthetic opioids other than methadone (likely driven primarily by illicitly manufactured fentanyl) (2,3), increased sharply overall and across many states."

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: dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm655051e1
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volum...
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volum...

27. Opioid Overdose Deaths In The US, 1999-2007

"From 1999 to 2007, the number of U.S. poisoning deaths involving any opioid analgesic (e.g., oxycodone, methadone, or hydrocodone) more than tripled, from 4,041 to 14,459, or 36% of the 40,059 total poisoning deaths in 2007. In 1999, opioid analgesics were involved in 20% of the 19,741 poisoning deaths. During 1999–2007, the number of poisoning deaths involving specified drugs other than opioid analgesics increased from 9,262 to 12,790, and the number involving nonspecified drugs increased from 3,608 to 8,947."

"Number of Poisoning Deaths* Involving Opioid Analgesics and Other Drugs or Substances — United States, 1999–2007," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, August 20, 2010, Vol. 59, No. 32 (Atlanta, GA: US Centers for Disease Control), p. 1026.
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/wk...

28. Opioid Involvement in Deaths in the US Attributed to Drug Overdose, 2016

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, in 2016, there were 63,632 drug overdose deaths in the United States. The CDC further estimates that of those, 42,249 deaths involved any opioid.

The CDC reports that in 2016, 15,469 deaths involved heroin; 14,487 deaths involved natural and semi-synthetic opioids; 3,373 deaths involved methadone; and 19,413 deaths involved synthetic opioids other than methadone, a category which includes fentanyl. The sum of those numbers is greater than the total opioid involved deaths because, as noted by the CDC, "Deaths involving more than one opioid category (e.g., a death involving both methadone and a natural or semisynthetic opioid such as oxycodone) are counted in both categories."

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/...
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29. Drug-Induced Mortality in the US, by Gender and Race/Ethnicity

"In 2016, a total of 67,265 persons died of drug-induced causes in the United States (Tables 5, 6, 8, and I–1). 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. (For a list of drug-induced causes, see Technical Notes.)

"In 2016, the age-adjusted death rate for drug-induced causes for the total population increased significantly, by 20.9% from 17.2 in 2015 to 20.8 in 2016 (Tables 5, 10, and I–1). For males in 2016, the age-adjusted death rate for drug-induced causes was 1.9 times the rate for females. The rate for drug-induced causes increased 26.0% for males and 13.6% for females in 2016 from 2015. The age-adjusted death rate for non-Hispanic white males was 28.9% higher than for non-Hispanic black males and 131.8% higher than for Hispanic males. The rate for non-Hispanic white females was 71.6% higher than for non-Hispanic black females and 252.8% higher than for Hispanic females.

"Among the major race–ethnicity–sex groups, the age-adjusted death rates for drug-induced causes increased significantly in 2016 from 2015 for non-Hispanic white males (24.7%), non-Hispanic white females (12.0%), non-Hispanic black males (42.2%), non-Hispanic black females (29.8%), Hispanic males (26.5%), and Hispanic females (12.8%)."

Xu JQ, Murphy SL, Kochanek KD, Bastian B, Arias E. Deaths: Final data for 2016. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol 67 no 5. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2018.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/...
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...

30. Alcohol-Induced Mortality in the US, by Gender and Race/Ethnicity

"In 2016, a total of 34,865 persons died of alcohol-induced causes in the United States (Tables 5, 6, 8, and I–2). This category includes deaths from dependent and nondependent use of alcohol, as well as deaths from accidental poisoning by alcohol. It excludes unintentional injuries, homicides, and other causes indirectly related to alcohol use, as well as deaths due to fetal alcohol syndrome. For a list of alcohol-induced causes, see Technical Notes.

"The age-adjusted death rate for alcohol-induced causes for the total population increased significantly, by 4.4% from 9.1 in 2015 to 9.5 in 2016 (Tables 5, 10, and I–2). For males, the age-adjusted death rate for alcohol-induced causes in 2016 was 2.7 times the rate for females. The rate for alcohol-induced causes increased 3.7% for males and 4.0% for females in 2016 from 2015. The age-adjusted death rate for non-Hispanic white males was 32.1% higher than for non-Hispanic black males and 16.3% lower than for Hispanic males. The rate for non-Hispanic white females was 66.7% higher than for non-Hispanic black females and 62.2% higher than for Hispanic females.

"Among the major race–ethnicity–sex groups, the age- adjusted rate for alcohol-induced death increased significantly in 2016 from 2015 for non-Hispanic white males (4.3%) and non-Hispanic white females (7.1%). The rates for non-Hispanic black males, non-Hispanic black females, Hispanic males, and Hispanic females did not change significantly."

Xu JQ, Murphy SL, Kochanek KD, Bastian B, Arias E. Deaths: Final data for 2016. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol 67 no 5. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2018.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/...

31. Mortality Risk from MDMA Use

"Hall and Henry (2006) reviewed the medical scenarios and treatment options for physicians dealing with MDMA-related medical emergencies: ‘Hyperpyrexia and multi-organ failure are now relatively well-known, other serious effects have become apparent more recently. Patients with acute MDMA toxicity may present to doctors working in Anaesthesia, Intensive Care, and Emergency Medicine. A broad knowledge of these pathologies and their treatment is necessary for those working in an acute medicine speciality’.
"Despite rapid medical intervention, some disorders are difficult to reverse and deteriorate rapidly, with occasional fatal outcomes (Schifano et al., 2003). In an early report, Henry et al. (1992) described MDMA-induced fatalities in seven young party goers, whose body temperatures at the intensive care unit ranged between 40 C and 43 C. The causes of death include various forms of organ failure. MDMA induces apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in cultured liver cells (Montiel-Duarte et al., 2002), and another form of death is from acute liver failure (Smith et al., 2005). Other fatalities result from cardiac arrest, brain seizure, ‘rhabdomyolysis’ or the destruction of skeletal muscle tissue, and ‘disseminated intravascular coagulation’ or the failure of blood clotting—which results in uncontrollable bleeding through multiple sites (Henry et al., 1992; Hall and Henry, 2006)."

Parrott, Andrew C., "Human Psychobiology of MDMA or 'Ecstasy': An Overview of 25 Years of Empirical Research," Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 2013; 28:289-307. DOI: 10.1002/hup.2318
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com...

32. Effect of Cannabis on Mortality

"In summary, this study showed little, if any, effect of marijuana use on non-AIDS mortality in men and on total mortality in women. The increased risk of AIDS mortality in male marijuana users probably did not reflect a causal relationship, but most likely represented uncontrolled confounding by male homosexual behavior. The risk of mortality associated with marijuana use was lower than that associated with tobacco cigarette smoking."

Stephen Sidney, MD, Jerome E. Beck, DrPH, Irene S. Tekawa, MA, Charles P Quesenberry, Jr, PhD, and Gary D. Friedman, MD, “Marijuana Use and Mortality.” American Journal of Public Health 87.4 (1997) pp. 589–590.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...

33. Alcohol Overdose Deaths in the US, 2012

"On average, 6 people died every day from alcohol poisoning in the US from 2010 to 2012. Alcohol poisoning is caused by drinking large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time. Very high levels of alcohol in the body can shutdown critical areas of the brain that control breathing, heart rate, and body temperature, resulting in death. Alcohol poisoning deaths affect people of all ages but are most common among middle-aged adults and men."

Alcohol Poisoning Deaths. CDC Vital Signs, January 2015. US Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA.
https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns...
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34. Drug Overdose Deaths in the US, Polydrug Use, and Involvement of Prescription Pharmaceutical Drugs

"Of the 36,667 drug overdose deaths with at least one mention of a specific drug, 52% mentioned only one specific drug (18,931 deaths), 26% mentioned two (9,351 deaths), 12% mentioned three (4,521 deaths), 6% mentioned four (2,041 deaths), and 5% mentioned five or more (1,823 deaths). Among drug overdose deaths with at least one mention of a specific drug, the average number of specific drugs mentioned was 1.9.

"Table C shows the percentage of drug overdose deaths with concomitant drugs for drug overdose deaths involving the top 10 drugs in 2014. The percentage of deaths involving concomitant drugs varied by referent drug. For example, the majority of the drug overdose deaths involving methamphetamine did not involve other drugs. In contrast, among deaths involving alprazolam and diazepam, more than 95% involved other drugs.

"The average number of concomitant drugs involved (excluding the referent drug) also varied among the top 10 drugs involved in drug overdose deaths. For example, drug overdose deaths involving diazepam or alprazolam had on average more than two additional drugs involved in death. Drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine had on average fewer than two additional drugs involved in death.

"Figure 5 shows the percent distribution of the number of concomitant drugs for overdose deaths involving the top 10 drugs in 2014 (Table 5). For example, for drug overdose deaths involving methamphetamine, 55% had no concomitant mentions, 25% mentioned one other drug, 18% mentioned two to four other drugs, and 1% mentioned five or more drugs. In contrast, for drug overdose deaths involving diazepam, 3% had no concomitant mentions, 22% mentioned one other drug, 62% mentioned two to four other drugs, and 13% mentioned five or more other drugs.

"Table D shows the most frequent concomitant drugs for each of the top 10 drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in 2014.

"• One in five drug overdose deaths involving heroin also involved cocaine.
"• Alprazolam was involved in 26% of the drug overdose deaths involving hydrocodone, 23% of the deaths involving oxycodone, and 18% of the deaths involving methadone.
"• More than one-third (37%) of the drug overdose deaths involving cocaine also involved heroin.
"• Nearly 20% of the overdose deaths involving methamphetamine also involved heroin."

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/...

35. Opiate Pain Reliever OD Deaths, 1999-2008

"During 1999–2008, overdose death rates, sales, and substance abuse treatment admissions related to OPR increased in parallel (Figure 2). The overdose death rate in 2008 was nearly four times the rate in 1999. Sales of OPR in 2010 were four times those in 1999."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Vital Signs: Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers — United States, 1999–2008," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Atlanta, GA: 2011), Vol. 60, No. 43, p. 1488.
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/wk...

36. MDMA Mortality Risk

"Schifano et al. (2010) analysed the government data on recreational stimulant deaths in the UK between 1997 and 2007. Over this period, there were 832 deaths related to amphetamine or methamphetamine and 605 deaths related to Ecstasy/MDMA. Many were related to multiple-drug ingestion or ‘polydrug’ use. However, in the analysis of ‘mono-intoxication’ fatalities, Schifano et al. (2010) found that deaths following Ecstasy use were significantly more represented than deaths following amphetamine/methamphetamine use (p < 0.007)."

Parrott, Andrew C., "Human Psychobiology of MDMA or 'Ecstasy': An Overview of 25 Years of Empirical Research," Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 2013; 28:289-307. DOI: 10.1002/hup.2318
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com...

37. Drug Overdose Deaths in the US, 2008

"In 2008, a total of 36,450 deaths were attributed to drug overdose, a rate of 11.9 per 100,000 population (Table 1), among which a drug was specified in 27,153 (74.5%) deaths. One or more prescription drugs were involved in 20,044 (73.8%) of the 27,153 deaths, and OPR were involved in 14,800 (73.8%) of the 20,044 prescription drug overdose deaths."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Vital Signs: Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers — United States, 1999–2008," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Atlanta, GA: 2011), Vol. 60, No. 43, p. 1488.
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/wk...

38. Comparison of Lethal Dose Versus Recreational Dose for Alcohol Compared With Other Drugs

"The lethal dose of alcohol divided by a typical recreational dose (safety ratio) is 10, which places it closer to heroin (6), and GHB (8) in terms of danger from overdose, than MDMA ('Ecstasy' – 16), and considerably more dangerous than LSD (1000) or cannabis (>1000)."

Sellman, Doug, "If alcohol was a new drug," Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association (Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Medical Association, September 2009), p. 6.
http://www.nzma.org.nz/__data/...

39. Marijuana and Mortality

"Indeed, epidemiological data indicate that in the general population marijuana use is not associated with increased mortality."

Janet E. Joy, Stanley J. Watson, Jr., and John A Benson, Jr., "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999), p. 109.
http://www.nap.edu/openbook.ph...

40. Alcohol Mortality and Other Annual Costs in the US

"Excessive alcohol use* accounted for an estimated average of 80,000 deaths and 2.3 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) in the United States each year during 2001–2005, and an estimated $223.5 billion in economic costs in 2006. Binge drinking accounted for more than half of those deaths, two thirds of the YPLL, and three quarters of the economic costs."

* Excessive alcohol use includes binge drinking (defined by CDC as consuming four or more drinks per occasion for women or five or more drinks per occasion for men), heavy drinking (defined as consuming more than one drink per day on average for women or more than two drinks per day on average for men), any alcohol consumption by pregnant women, and any alcohol consumption by youths aged less than 21 years.

Kanny, Dafna; Garvin, William S.; and Balluz, Lina, "ital Signs: Binge Drinking Prevalence, Frequency, and Intensity Among Adults — United States, 2010," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 13, 2012) Vol. 61, No. 1, p. 14.
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/wk...

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