Drug overdose death rate in the US

For decades, the US is suffering an opioid epidemic. On this map we’re going to have a closer look at the drug overdose death rate.

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Map showing the death rate in the US related to drug usage

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The United states has the highest rate of drug related deaths in the world. With 20 drug related deaths per 100,000 people, the US has double that of the global number 2, Estonia (9.8). The state with the lowest death rate, Nebraska (7.9), still ranks above the global number 4, Canada (6.9).

West Virginia has by far the highest drug overdose rate of any state in the US. Neighbouring state Kentucky is the second highest in the US.

The opioid epidemic is mostly hitting Native Americans and white working-class Americans. The areas hit hardest in the US, are rural areas.

Since the 90s, the United States is suffering from a significant increase in the use of opioid drugs. As we can see on the graph in this map, opioids are still responsible for 72% of all drug overdose deaths in the US. It’s unknown how many of these overdose deaths are caused by prescription drugs. It’s estimated that 50% of drug overdoses are not the result of an opioid product from a prescription, though most abusers’ first exposure had still been by lawful prescription.

The biggest killer of all drugs, is fentanyl. Around 50% of all drug overdose deaths in the United States are the result of fentanyl use. Deaths from fentanyl have increased by 540% across the US from 2015 to 2017. Most of the fentanyl is acquired illegally, with the vast majority of it being produced in China.


  1. OK. I like the global comparisons too. Scotland’s rate is higher than the rate of all other countries, including the overall US rate. Only 9 US states are higher. Maybe you can add this blurb (or similar) from Our World in Data. It is on nearly all their pages:
    “License: All the material produced by Our World in Data, including interactive visualizations and code, are completely open access under the Creative Commons BY license. You have the permission to use, distribute, and reproduce these in any medium, provided the source and authors are credited. All other material, including data produced by third parties and made available by Our World in Data, is subject to the license terms from the original third-party authors. Please consult our full legal disclaimer.”


  2. Hello. Can you release this map with a free license so I can use it on the Wikipedia page called “United States drug overdose death rates and totals over time”. Wikipedia accepts CC-BY or CC-BY-SA licenses. Are there other ways to contact you? I could not find a contact page anywhere on your site. And what is the source of your numbers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. I need an exact link to use with the map as a reference on the Wikipedia page.


      1. The CDC has indeed slightly different data and they also adjust it for age, which IMHE doesn’t. The reason I chose the data from IMHE, is that I wanted to be able to compare the data to the rest of the world, to show the severity of the problem in the US. With CDC data, I can’t add that bar in the bottom right corner of the map, as the CDC obviously doesn’t have any data for other countries.
        I might make another map of this in the future, but not at this moment.


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