Drug Overdose Deaths Declined in 2023: CDC

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May 16, 2024 – Annual U.S. drug overdose deaths declined last year. The good news was double-edged, indicating that opioid deaths declined the most, but opioids remained the top killer. 

The CDC report puts a cap on a steep rise in overdose deaths that spanned the past 5 years and took the annual death toll above 100,000.The decline between 2022 and 2023 was modest and is estimated to be 3%, which is a difference of about 3,500 deaths.

The encouraging decline was largely driven by fewer overdose deaths due to opioids. But deaths due to other drugs, like the stimulants cocaine and methamphetamine, rose.

Overall, more than 80,000 deaths in 2023 were linked to opioids (mainly synthetic opioids like fentanyl and tramadol). Opioid deaths declined 3.7% from 2022. But overdose deaths involving cocaine climbed 5%, and deaths involving other psychostimulants like methamphetamine rose by 2% in 2023, compared to the prior year.

The new total estimate attributes 107,543 deaths to drug overdoses in 2023, down from 111,029 in 2022. The data is considered preliminary because sometimes, drug overdose deaths are first reported as "no cause of death" due to lengthy investigations that may include toxicology testing that can take months to confirm.

A top CDC official called the numbers “heartening news” and said the progress should reinvigorate further efforts.

“Our thoughts remain with those who have lost loved ones and those who are struggling with addiction or know someone who is,” CDC Chief Medical Officer Debra Houry, MD, MPH, said in a statement. “Our country is committed to ending this epidemic and preventing unnecessary death and suffering.”

Individuals and families affected by substance use can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline at 800-662-4357. The year-round helpline is free, confidential, and provides treatment referral and information services in English and Spanish 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.