What are the mortality rates for opioid toxicity?

Updated: Jul 19, 2021
  • Author: Everett Stephens, MD; Chief Editor: Jeter (Jay) Pritchard Taylor, III, MD  more...
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Opioids are prescribed widely, often in concert with other analgesics, and this legitimate use, along with diversion of pharmaceutical opioids and abuse of illicit opioids, results in large numbers of overdoses. In 2019, opioids were involved in over two thirds of all drug overdose deaths in the United States. [1] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes three waves of opioid overdose deaths in the US: the first beginning in the 1990s, from prescription opioids; the second beginning in 2010, involving heroin; and the third beginning in 2013 and involving synthetic opioids, especially fentanyl. [2] In 2019, almost three quarters of opioid-involved overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids. [1]

Although overdose deaths involving prescription opioids and heroin have remained stable since 2016, overdose deaths involving all opioids have increased, due to rising numbers involving synthetic opioids. Overall opioid-related deaths rose from 42,249 in 2016 to 49,860 in 2019. [3, 1]

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