Which states are experiencing the most drug overdoses and what are the most common drugs used in the US?
It is important to monitor drug overdose deaths in the US to understand the impact on the population and to see how the crisis is evolving, for better or worse.
That is why we have collected data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, which receives data from death certificates, including the cause of death information from medical examiners and coroners.
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US States with the Highest Drug Overdose Deaths
1. California – 39,156 Total Deaths
California has seen the highest number of deaths caused by drug overdoses between the years of 2013 and 2020. A total of 39,156 deaths were recorded from 2013 to 2020, and the numbers are rising. From 2013 when 4,452 deaths were recorded, to 2020 when this figure doubled, to a concerning 8,908 deaths. It was reported in 2021 that in California, 8.5% of the overall population has an addiction to any substance (drugs or alcohol).
2. Georgia – 31,447 Total Deaths
Georgia falls second in our list of US states with the highest overdose deaths between 2013 and 2020. A total of 31,447 deaths caused by drugs were recorded during this period. Georgia saw a huge jump in the number of fatalities between 2014 and 2015 when the number more than doubled from 1,206 to 3,228. Fast forward to 2020, and 7,231 deaths were recorded.
3. Rhode Island – 27,486 Total Deaths
Rhode Island is in third place for its overdose deaths caused by drugs between 2013 and 2020. The state saw a huge increase in deaths (2044%) since 2013, and 27,486 deaths were recorded in the eight-year period. In 2013, just 241 deaths were recorded. In 2020, this number increased to 5,168 deaths caused by drug overdose.
4. Oklahoma – 26,962 Total Deaths
Oklahoma stands in fourth place for total overdose deaths caused by drugs in 2013-2020. The state saw a large increase in deaths (559%) since 2013, and 26,962 deaths were recorded during the period.
5. North Carolina – 23,950 Total Deaths
North Carolina falls in fifth place for the most overdose-related deaths in the eight-year period. The state has seen a 294% increase in deaths caused by drug overdoses since 2013, with 23,950 deaths recorded. It was found that heroin has played a huge part in the number of overdose deaths in North Carolina.
Drugs Causing the Most Deaths in the US
1. Heroin – 48,579 Total Deaths
Heroin is the number one killer drug to cause overdose deaths in the US during the recorded eight-year period. The drug is a powerful opiate that’s usually sold as a white or brown powder.
The risk of overdose and death is high when using heroin, as it causes many users to become dependent on it, making it the most dangerous drug to become addicted to. With 48,579 deaths in the US alone, heroin has played a huge part in the opioid epidemic across the country.
2. Fentanyl – 32,728 Total Deaths
Fentanyl is the second most dangerous drug in the US, with 32,728 Total Deaths. It is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and is a major contributor to fatal overdoses in the US.
It is a drug of abuse. Fentanyl (and other opioids) could possibly be used as an incapacitating agent to impair a person’s ability to function.
3. Cocaine – 29,851 Total Deaths
Cocaine is the third most dangerous drug, with 29,851 deaths caused by overdose between 2013 and 2016. Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America.
While some people may see it as a recreational drug, it is possible to overdose on cocaine. An overdose occurs when a person uses enough of a drug to produce serious adverse effects, life-threatening symptoms, or death. According to NIDA, cocaine-related death totals have seen a significant fluctuation in the last decade or so.
4. Alprazolam – 18,971 Total Deaths
Alprazolam, often referred to as Xanax, is the fourth most dangerous drug in the US. Alprazolam is a prescription medication used to treat anxiety and panic disorder. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS) estimates that more than 16 million Americans (6%) abuse prescriptions like Xanax every year. Some 4.8 million Americans use Benzodiazepines every year, with Xanax as one of the best-known brand names.
5. Methamphetamine – 18,795 Total Deaths
Methamphetamine is the fifth most dangerous drug in the US, with 18,795 deaths caused by overdoses between 2013 and 2016. Meth is a part of the amphetamine family of stimulant drugs, it comes in several different forms including tablets, powder, or crystals.
The Drugs with the Biggest Increase in Overdose Deaths
The data table below shows the total number of deaths caused by each stimulant in the three-year period, as well as their percent increase from 2013 to 2016.
1. Fentanyl – 855.45% increase
Within the three-year period, fentanyl saw the biggest increase in drug overdose deaths in the US (855.5%). As the second most dangerous drug behind heroin for its number of deaths, the alarming increase caused by synthetic opioid is equally concerning. In 2013, the death toll for fentanyl was at 1,919, fast forward to 2016, and this number increased to 18,335.
2. Cocaine – 112.75% increase
Cocaine saw the second highest increase in drug overdose deaths between 2013-2016 (112.8%). As the third most dangerous drug, causing 29,851 deaths by overdose between 2013 and 2016, the use of cocaine is on the rise, and it is unfortunately likely to take many more lives.
3. Methamphetamine – 111.71% increase
Methamphetamine had the third highest increase in overdose deaths over the years (111.71%). The death toll for meth was 3,194 in 2013 and 6,762 in 2016, a steady increase over the years.
While looking at overdose deaths in the US, we were limited to those drugs that had overdose death data available from the CDC. So, there are some dangerous drugs that may have caused overdose deaths that were not included in our study. However, these drugs were the substances that saw the most significant number of overdose deaths across the United States.
We started by using CDC resources to find drug overdose death rates. We were able to gather the number of 2020 deaths for each state. We then took all data from 2013 to 2020 to get a total number of deaths for the eight years and were able to calculate the increase from 2013-2020.
To gather the most dangerous drug’s data, we used another CDC resource, Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Drug Overdose Deaths: United States, 2011–2016 to find the top 15 drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in the United States from 2011–2016.