Skip to navigationSkip to content

Half a million Americans died from drug overdoses in the past 14 years

AP Photo/Fernando Vergara
Drug overdose deaths are rising in America.
By Ashley Rodriguez
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Drug overdoses are killing more people in the US now than ever before.

Nearly half a million Americans—499,446 to be precise—died from drug overdoses between 2000 and 2014, data released Dec. 18 by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows. In 2014 alone, drug overdoses killed more than 47,000 people—a 7% increase from the previous year—and the most of any year on the CDC’s record.

Heroin overdoses in particular have climbed dramatically—more than tripling in the past four years. The age-adjusted rate of deaths caused by opioids, including heroin and opioid pain relievers, rose 14% in 2014, setting a new record.

“The increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose is alarming,” CDC director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “[It’s] devastating American families and communities.”

Over the past year, obituaries spotlighting victims of drug addiction have put faces to these statistics.

This month, Rolling Stone published a letter by the ex-wife of American musician Scott Weiland, who overdosed on drugs, titled “Scott Weiland’s Family: ‘Don’t Glorify This Tragedy.’” USA Today recently highlighted parents of an 18-year-old girl who died after a heroin overdose because they used her obituary to raise awareness about opioid addiction.

In the same vein, recent exposés by the New York Times and have shone a light on the pervasive use of heroine in suburban communities like Staten Island, New York and parts of New Jersey.

Yet, the epidemic persists—particularly in the states of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Utah, Kentucky and New Mexico, which had the highest rates of overdose deaths in the US last year.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.