Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths - United States, 2017-2018

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Mar 20;69(11):290-297. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6911a4.


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). Efforts related to all opioids, particularly deaths involving synthetic opioids, should be strengthened to sustain and accelerate declines in opioid-involved deaths. Comprehensive surveillance and prevention measures are critical to reducing opioid-involved deaths, including continued surveillance of evolving drug use and overdose, polysubstance use, and the changing illicit drug market; naloxone distribution and outreach to groups at risk for IMF exposure; linkage to evidence-based treatment for persons with substance use disorders; and continued partnerships with public safety.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / poisoning*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Overdose / ethnology
  • Drug Overdose / mortality*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urbanization
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Opioid