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Overdose Deaths Reached Record High in 2014

Blurred picture of an ambulanceDrug overdose deaths rose by 14% between 2013 and 2014, according to a recently released report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overdose is the leading cause of accidental death, and it is responsible for the deaths of 47,055 people last year. Prescription opioids and opioids such as heroin are the leading causes of drug-related deaths, accounting for nearly 29,000 of the overdose deaths in 2014.

Drug Overdose Deaths by the Numbers

While most mind-altering substances can lead to addiction and overdose, some drugs carry more of a risk than others. Deaths due to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl increased 80%—a figure the CDC says is due in part to illicit manufacturing. Heroin overdose rates jumped by 26%, while deaths from prescription opiates such as morphine and codeine increased by 9%.

Other statistics about the epidemic include:

  • Drug overdoses kill 150% more people than car crashes.
  • Opioids—drugs derived from the opium poppy—account for 61% of drug overdoses.
  • Drug overdose deaths have killed almost half a million people since 2000, marking a 137% increase.
  • West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Ohio, and New Mexico have the highest drug overdose rates.

The CDC says prescription drugs often serve as gateway drugs to heroin use, with many heroin users getting their start with prescription opioids.

The CDC says health care providers can help stop the epidemic by educating patients about the dangers of addiction, in addition to only prescribing potentially addictive drugs when they are absolutely necessary. Prescription drug-monitoring programs—state-run databases that track dispensing and prescription of potentially addictive drugs—can also help.

Emergency Assistance for an Overdose

Prompt medical care in the event of an overdose can save lives. If you suspect an overdose, do not try to counteract it with additional drugs, and do not wait for symptoms to go away. An overdose is a medical emergency that warrants immediate intervention. Call 911, or go to a local emergency room.

Signs of overdose to watch for:

  • Nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
  • Unexplained drowsiness
  • Confusion or changes in thoughts or behavior
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulties with balance
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Hallucinations and visual disturbances
  • Loud snoring
  • Turning blue
  • Difficulty breathing


  1. Drug overdose. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. Injury prevention and control: Prevention drug overdose. (2015, September 16). Retrieved from
  3. Kounang, N. (2015, December 18). Drug overdose deaths reach all-time high. Retrieved from
  4. Understanding the epidemic. (2015, October 28). Retrieved from

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  • Leave a Comment
  • shell

    December 28th, 2015 at 10:25 AM

    Sort of surprised that these numbers are on the rise again, make you stop to think about whether these are intentional overdoses or if they were unintentional.
    Either way you know that there is a problem when there is far too much education out there and available regarding drug abuse and yet these numbers continue to go up.

  • Sloane

    December 28th, 2015 at 5:25 PM

    I am not at all surprised.

    I hear people all the time talking about they take this drug or that and they seem to know more about what a certain pill will do than many in the medical community! It is scary how much people seem to know and how easy it is for them to access exactly what it is that they want.

  • William L

    December 29th, 2015 at 2:44 PM

    could be all of these pain pills that are being prescribed with no reason at all

  • Misty

    December 30th, 2015 at 12:40 PM

    I think that this goes a whole lot deeper than just education. People know that being addicted to drugs is of course not the ideal, generally not the life goal that they wish to achieve. But many get sucked into that kind of behavior and before they even know what has happened they have become addicted and see no way out. They even go to rehab again and again but see no lasting results. I am beginning to think that this is one of those on going epidemics for which there will never be any real answers until there is just no more access to any of it. But those who are determined always seem to find a way to get it.

  • Ron

    December 30th, 2015 at 5:11 PM

    so how do we stop this thought that society has that everything can be solved by popping a pill or two?
    that’s how these things get started in the first place.

  • Eugenia

    December 31st, 2015 at 11:12 AM

    I always think back to the scene from Breaking Bad when Jesse’s girlfriend OD’d. That would be an awful thing to witness

  • lori

    January 4th, 2016 at 5:05 PM

    and there is some new drink out that mimics the effects of opiates and addicts are unwittingly getting rehooked after drinking this? and it is legal so they think that it should be ok?

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