Together We Can Save Lives
We can prevent overdoses and save lives by ensuring equitable access to essential health care and support services without stigma.
Preventing substance use disorder is the first step towards addressing overdoses. Learn about effective prevention programs and safe prescribing practices./overdose-prevention/primary-prevention
Harm reduction is critical to keeping people who use drugs alive and as healthy as possible. Read the research and reduce stigma./overdose-prevention/harm-reduction
When a person is ready, high-quality treatment must be available without delay. Help improve access to treatment./overdose-prevention/treatment
Recovery support services can lead to better long-term outcomes, especially when available in communities where they are needed. Explore different types of recovery services./overdose-prevention/recovery-support
The overdose crisis is national, but the impact is personal.
As the overdose crisis continues to change, we must take a pragmatic, evidence-based approach to saving lives, reducing risk, and removing barriers to effective interventions. This requires that we provide care and services that respect the health and dignity of people who use drugs.
Trends in U.S. Drug Overdose Deaths (1999 - 2021)
The overdose crisis has evolved over time and is now largely characterized by deaths involving illicitly manufactured synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, and, increasingly, stimulants.
Synthetic opioids excluding methadone overdose deaths increased 97-fold
Psychostimulants with abuse potential (primarily methamphetamine) overdose deaths increased 59-fold
Cocaine overdose increased 6.4-fold
Rx opioid overdose deaths increased 4.9-fold
This graph shows the total number of drug overdose deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2021 (the 2021 are provisional).The data shows that overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids excluding methadone have increased 97-fold. Overdose deaths involving psychostimulants (primarily methamphetamine) with abuse potential have increased 59-fold.,. Overdose deaths involving cocaine have increased 6.4-fold. And overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have increased 4.9 -fold. Source: National Vital Statistics System Mortality File
Overdose Deaths Increased
Drug overdose deaths reached 93,331 in 2020 – the highest number ever recorded.
Higher Rates in Minority Groups
In 2019, non-Hispanic American Indians or Alaska Natives had a higher drug overdose death rate than any other racial or ethnic group (30 per 100,000).
Instability Increases Overdose
People without health insurance, or who were incarcerated, or who are living in poverty are at increased risk of fatal opioid overdose.
Working Together to Combat the Overdose Crisis
Canada and the U.S. have published a white paper, Substance Use and Harms During COVID-19 and Approaches to Federal Surveillance and Response, that examines rapid and innovative approaches used by both countries to monitor substance use trends during the pandemic, including:
- substance use harms and deaths in Canada and the U.S.
- the impact of COVID-19 on the opioids crisis
- policy responses to address substance use from the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic to September 2022