Skip to site content

Two-Thirds of 2017 Drug Overdose Deaths Due to Opioids

More than two-thirds (67.8 percent) of all drug-related overdose deaths in 2017 involved opioids, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released Dec. 21.

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF) – a synthetic opioid used for pain that the CDC notes is “50 to 100 times more potent than morphine” – is a leading contributor to the rise in opioid-related deaths.

“From 2013 to 2017, drug overdose death rates increased in 35 of 50 states and [Washington,] D.C., and significant increases in death rates involving synthetic opioids occurred in 15 of 20 states, likely driven by IMF,” the report said. “From 2016 to 2017, overdose deaths involving all opioids and synthetic opioids increased, but deaths involving prescription opioids and heroin remained stable.”

There were 70,032 drug-related deaths in 2017, with 47,600 involving an opioid – up 12 percent from 2016.

Of the opioid-related deaths, a majority (59.8 percent) involved synthetic opioids – up 45.2 percent from 2016.

While prescription-related opioid deaths were largely unchanged from 2016, there were still 17,029 deaths connected to them in 2017 (down from 17,087).

Since 1999, 56.8 percent of all drug-related deaths have involved opioids.

“Of the 35 jurisdictions reporting data sufficient for analysis, 23 states and the District of Columbia saw increased rates of death linked to synthetic opioids,” according to a CDC press release announcing the report.

“Previously, deaths involving synthetic opioids mainly occurred east of the Mississippi River. The latest available data now show eight states west of the Mississippi had significant increases in such deaths: Arizona, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Texas and Washington.”

The full report is available here.