Drug overdose deaths have been steadily increasing in the U.S. These deaths have largely been fueled by the opioid and heroin epidemic. Indeed, these drugs are responsible for nearly 2/3 of all drug-related deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 47,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in 2014. Also, more Americans are killed every year by drug overdoses than by car or gun accidents.

Ten states now report greater than 20 deaths per 100,000 persons. In these, there are also a disproportionately large number of opioid abusers. For example, in 7 of the 10 states with the highest number of drug overdose deaths per capita, over 40% of persons admitted for addiction treatment are addicted to opioids.

Since the turn of the century, prescriptions for opioid painkillers have quadrupled, and so have drug overdose deaths. It is believed that the association between the number of opioid prescriptions and the number of opioid deaths is no coincidence. Opioids are highly addictive, and for some, tolerance and dependency breeds abuse, or causes the user to turn to heroin when their drug of choice becomes too expensive on inaccessible.

Statistics for the following states were gathered from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

#10 Oklahoma – 2014 Drug-Related Overdose Deaths per 100,000 Persons – 20.3

Ten years prior (2004), Oklahoma reported just under 14 drug-related overdose deaths per 100,000 persons. That’s an increase of about 44%.

In 2008, 16 deaths per 100,000 were related to a prescription painkiller overdoses.

#9 Delaware – 2014 Drug-Related Overdose Deaths Per 100,000 Persons 20.9

Ten years prior (2004), Delaware reported under 8 drug-related overdose deaths per 100,000 persons. That’s a staggering increase of 160%, a rate that more than doubled.

In Delaware, more than 50% of all persons admitted for substance abuse treatment are for prescription opioids or heroin.

#8 Pennsylvania – 2014 Drug-Related Overdose Deaths per 100,000 Persons – 21.9

Ten years prior, in 2004, Pennsylvania reported under 13 drug-related overdose deaths per 100,000 persons. That’s an increase of 68%. In 2008, 15 persons per 100,000 died from prescription painkillers.

Like Delaware, opioids represent nearly half of all admission to addiction treatment centers every year. Heroin abuse alone account for just under 38%. Also, in the years 2013-2014, drug overdose deaths increased by nearly 13% in Pennsylvania.

#7 Utah – 2014 Drug-Related Overdose Deaths per 100,000 Persons – 22.4

Utah Drug Overdose

While alcohol use remains very low in Utah, drug overdose deaths are prevalent. In 2004, Utah reported 16.3 drug-related overdose deaths per 100,000, an increase of nearly 38% in ten years.

In 2008, 18 persons per 100,000 (80%) died from prescription painkillers.


#6 Rhode Island – 2014 Drug-Related Overdose Deaths per 100,000 Persons – 23.4

Rhode Island is a tiny state with a big drug problem. In 2004, under 10 persons per 100,000 died of drug-related overdoses in Rhode Island. That’s an increase of 140%, more than doubling in ten years.

In 2008, 17 per 100,000 died from overdoses related to prescription painkillers. Also, nearly 475 persons per 100,000 are admitted to substance abuse treatment for heroin or prescription opioid addiction each year.

#5 Ohio – 2014 Drug-Related Overdose Deaths per 100,000 Persons – 24.6

In 2004, Ohio reported just under 10 drug-related overdose deaths per 100,000. That’s roughly a 150% increase, more than doubling in ten years. In 2008, 15 persons per 100,000 died from overdoses related to prescription painkillers.

In 2014, 37% of admissions to addiction treatment centers were related to heroin (27%) or prescription opioids (10%). And between 2013-2014, drug overdose deaths in Ohio increased by over 18%.

#4 Kentucky – 2014 Drug-Related Overdose deaths per 100,000 Persons – 24.7

In 2004, there were under 13 drug-related overdose deaths per 100,000, revealing an increase of nearly 93% over ten years. In 2008, 18 overdose deaths per 100,000 were related to prescription painkillers.

Also, nearly half of all persons in Kentucky who are admitted to substance abuse treatment do so because of opioid abuse, including heroin.

#3 New Hampshire – 2014 Drug-Related Overdose deaths per 100,000 Persons – 26.2

New Hampshire Drug Overdose

New Hampshire reported under 10 drug-related overdose deaths per 100,000 in 2004.

That’s an increase of around 173% – the highest increase in a ten year period on the list.

Also, drug overdose deaths increased by a staggering 73.5% in just one year – between 2013-2014.


#2 New Mexico – 2014 Drug-Related Overdose deaths per 100,000 Persons – 27.3

In 2004, New Mexico reported just under 17 drug-related overdose deaths per 100,000 persons, indicating an increase of over 61%. In 2008, the same number of persons (27) reported died from overdoses related to prescription painkillers.

Also, between 2013-2014, drug overdose deaths increased by over 20%.

#1 West Virginia – 2014 Drug-Related Overdose deaths per 100,000 Persons – 35.5

In 2004, West Virginia reported under 19 drug-related overdose deaths per 100,000 persons – in increase of nearly 89%. In 2008, 26 overdose deaths per 100,000 persons were related to prescription painkillers.

Also, West Virginia drug-related overdose deaths beat out it’s nearest competitor New Mexico by about 8 persons per 100,000 – the highest difference between two states on the list. West Virginia also has the 3rd largest rate of opioid painkiller prescriptions in the U.S.

10 States With the Most Statistically Significant Increases in Drug Overdose Deaths 2013-2014

The 10 States the the most statistically significant increases in drug overdose deaths from the years 2013-2014 (the last complete years on record) include:

  • Michigan – 13.2%
  • Virginia – 14.7%
  • Ohio – 18.3%
  • Massachusetts – 18.8%
  • Maryland – 19.2%
  • Alabama – 19.7%
  • New Mexico – 20.8%
  • Maine – 27.3%
  • New Hampshire – 73.5%
  • North Dakota – 125%