HealthDay News — According to a data brief published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, drug overdose deaths have nearly tripled in the United States since 1999 — with the largest increases seen for whites and middle-aged Americans.

Holly Hedegaard, MD, of the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Maryland, and colleagues note that 16.3 out of every 100,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2015, compared to 6.1 in 1999.

The researchers also found that drug overdose deaths have risen among whites at a rate of about 7% each year, compared with 2% a year for blacks and Hispanics. 

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The overdose death rate among whites in 2015 was nearly 3.5 times the rate it was in 1999. Drug overdose deaths increased from 1999 to 2015 in all age groups, but adults aged 45 to 54 had the highest death rate — 30 fatalities for every 100,000 people.

Heroin accounted for one-quarter of overdose deaths in 2015 — triple the rate in 2010, Hedegaard told HealthDay. Other opioids — both synthetic and natural — such as oxycodone and hydrocodone accounted for another 24% of overdose deaths in 2015, down from 29% in 2010. Four states — West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio — lead the nation with the highest overdose death rates, according to the report.


Hedegaard H, Warner M, Miniño AM. “Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2015. NCHS Data Brief, No 273.” National Center for Health Statistics. 2017.

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