Provisional US Drug Overdose Data via Centers for Disease Control

The federal Centers for Disease Control compiles and publishes official data on annual causes of death in the United States. Demand for data on drug overdose deaths, and on drug overdoses generally, is so great that the CDC is now making raw data on these subjects available to the public. The data are provisional, not final, so there are several caveats that must be understood before examining the numbers. According to the CDC:

What is Fentanyl?

"Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid analgesic acting predominately at the μ-opiate receptor. It has historically been used as a pain reliever and an anaesthetic in both human and veterinary medicine and in terms of analgesic activity it is at least 80 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl was first synthesized by Paul Janssen in 1960 and marketed as a medicinal product for treating pain. Subsequently, many fentanyl analogues were developed including sufentanil, alfentanil, remifentanil, and carfentanil.

Factors That May Skew Estimates of Overdose Deaths in the US 2015

"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.

Deaths from Overdose in the United States 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."

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.

Key Factors Underlying Increasing Rates of Heroin Use and Opioid Overdose in the US

"A key factor underlying the recent increases in rates of heroin use and overdose may be the low cost and high purity of heroin.45,46 The price in retail purchases has been lower than $600 per pure gram every year since 2001, with costs of $465 in 2012 and $552 in 2002, as compared with $1237 in 1992 and $2690 in 1982.45 A recent study showed that each $100 decrease in the price per pure gram of heroin resulted in a 2.9% increase in the number of hospitalizations for heroin overdose.46"

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

Estimated Drug-Induced Mortality in the US, 2014, by Gender and Race/Ethnicity: "In 2014, a total of 49,714 persons died of drug-induced causes in the United States (Tables 10, 12, and 13). 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 unintentional injuries, homicides, and other causes indirectly related to drug use, as well as newborn deaths due to the mother’s drug use.

Effect of Cannabis on Mortality

Cannabis and 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."

Increasing Involvement Of Benzodiazepines In Opioid Overdose Mortality In The US

Increasing Involvement Of Benzodiazepines In Opioid Overdose Mortality In The US, 2011: "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."