US Drug Deaths Grow Almost 30% in One Year

US Opioid Deaths Hit Grim New Record, Hitting 93,000 in 2020

Diane Lilli

Not all overdoses have to end in death. Everyone has a role to play.

Learn about the risks of opioids.

Learn about naloxone, its availability, and how to use it.

Help people struggling with opioid use disorder to find the right care and treatment.

Learn more about CDC’s overdose surveillance and prevention efforts in your community

Learn more about what may help if you or someone you care about is increasing drug use during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The federal government released new statistics yesterday about the US Opioid Crisis.  The feds painted a grim picture, announcing there were a record-breaking number of deaths due to fatal overdoses in 2020: 93,000.

These staggering new deaths due to overdoses occurred during the Pandemic last year, and represent a 29 percent increase from 2019. In 2019, there were 72,000 fatal Opioid drug overdoses.  This 21,000 leap in Opioid overdose deaths in 2020 represents the largest annual jump in US history.

Experts reported lockdowns, Covid-19 illness, pandemic restrictions, and isolation kept drug addicts away from treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared the new overdose deaths statistics after they reviewed 2020 death certificates. These 93,000 overdose deaths are equal to an average of over 250 deaths daily, or about eleven overdose deaths per hour.

The CDC broke down the deaths as follows:

Synthetic opioids (primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl) appear to be the primary driver of the increases in overdose deaths, increasing 38.4 percent from the 12-month period leading up to June 2019 compared with the 12-month period leading up to May 2020. During this time period:

  • 37 of the 38 U.S. jurisdictions with available synthetic opioid data reported increases in synthetic opioid-involved overdose deaths.
  • 18 of these jurisdictions reported increases greater than 50 percent.
  • 10 western states reported over a 98 percent increase in synthetic opioid-involved deaths.

Overdose deaths involving cocaine also increased by 26.5 percent. Based upon earlier research, these deaths are likely linked to co-use or contamination of cocaine with illicitly manufactured fentanyl or heroin. Overdose deaths involving psychostimulants, such as methamphetamine, increased by 34.8 percent. The number of deaths involving psychostimulants now exceeds the number of cocaine-involved deaths.

“The increase in overdose deaths is concerning,” said Deb Houry, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “CDC’s Injury Center continues to help and support communities responding to the evolving overdose crisis. Our priority is to do everything we can to equip people on the ground to save lives in their communities.”


The CDC offered recommendations to help stem the growing incidents of fatal overdoses in the US, noting:

The increase in overdose deaths highlights the need for essential services to remain accessible for people most at risk of overdose and the need to expand prevention and response activities. CDC issued a health advisory today to medical and public health professionals, first responders, harm reduction organizations, and other community partners recommending the following actions as appropriate based on local needs and characteristics:

  • Expand distribution and use of naloxone and overdose prevention education.
  • Expand awareness about and access to and availability of treatment for substance use disorders.
  • Intervene early with individuals at highest risk for overdose.
  • Improve detection of overdose outbreaks to facilitate a more effective response.