Drug Overdose Deaths Smashed Records Again In 2022

Overdose deaths have been rising for two decades.
Handcuffs on wrist, drug syringe
(Getty Images)

Drug overdoses topped records again in 2022, new government data show.

Nearly 108,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2022, according to data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A total of 107,941 people died from drug overdoses that year, about 1,200 more or 1% higher than those who died in 2021.

The number of overdose deaths has been rising for two decades, hitting new records nearly every year.

The overdose death rate for teens and adults younger than 35 decreased slightly, while rates increased for adults age 35 and older.

Men consistently make up the vast majority of overdose deaths by far, about 70% of all deaths. In 2022, the female overdose death rate declined for the first time in five years, but the male rate continued to climb.

American Indian and Alaska Native people continued to have the highest overdose death rate, which spiked 15% in 2022. Black, Hispanic, and Asian people also saw their overdose death rates rise, while rates decreased among white Americans.

Powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl continue to drive the death rate up precipitously.


Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is about 50 times more potent than heroin, has been on the rise in the U.S. for years. The deadly synthetic opioid is inexpensive to make, easily transported, and has been increasingly smuggled over the southern border by Mexican cartels.

As little as two milligrams of fentanyl weighing the same as a few grains of salt can cause a fatal overdose, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Because it is frequently cut with other drugs, users may often be unaware that they are consuming the powerful substance, which can be deadly even in small doses.

Synthetic opioids caused about 23 deaths for every 100,000 people in 2022, 4% higher than in 2021. Meanwhile, deaths due to natural opioids such as heroin decreased.

Deaths involving cocaine also spiked 12% in 2022. Deaths involving psychostimulants such as methamphetamine also increased 4%.

Overdose death numbers for 2023 have not yet been reported.

The new data also showed that overall life expectancy increased for Americans by more than a year up to 77.5 years.

This is partially due to the COVID death rate declining, but it does not quite make up for the 2.4 years of life expectancy lost since the pandemic. Life expectancy remains lower than it has been in about two decades.

The death rates for infants and children up to 14 jumped between 2021 and 2022 while the death rate for age groups above 14 decreased.

Heart disease remained the leading cause of death, with cancer in second place.

Those conditions cause about two out of very five deaths in the country, although the death rates for both decreased 4% and 3%, respectively, in 2022.

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