Drug overdose deaths top 100K, but dropped for first time in five years

May 15, 2024

U.S. drug overdose deaths dropped slightly in 2023, according to early data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first annual decrease in drug overdose deaths since 2018. 

But the overall number of deaths is still extremely high. More than 107,000 people died from drug overdoses last year, a decrease of 3 percent from the approximately 111,000 deaths estimated in 2022. 

Deaths surpassed 100,000 for the first time in 2021. 

CDC Chief Medical Officer Deb Houry in a statement called the findings “heartening,” and a “testament to the hard work by all of our partners in this effort and the work being done on the ground.” 

However, she noted there’s still work to do, and the “progress over the last 12 months should make us want to reinvigorate our efforts knowing that our strategies are making a difference.” 

Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl, dropped slightly in 2023, from 76,226 to 74,702. However, fatal overdoses from cocaine and psychostimulants like methamphetamine increased, CDC found. 

CDC noted that many fatal overdoses involve multiple street drugs, so the number of deaths attributed to specific substances do not “equal the total number of drug overdose deaths.”  

The report also noted uneven progress across the states. Several states saw decreases, with Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana, and Maine experiencing declines of 15 percent or more.  

Still, some states like Alaska, Washington, and Oregon saw increases of at least 27 percent compared to the same period in 2022.