Drug overdose deaths drop for the first time in five years, but still remain critically high

Deadly drug overdoses dropped by around 3% in 2023, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This marks the first time in five years that deaths have decreased from illicit drugs. 

However, the toll from the drug crisis remains critically high, claiming the lives of 107,543 Americans in 2023. That’s less than the 111,029 deaths in 2022 but more than the 106,699 deaths in 2021.

“This does not mean we have accomplished our mission. The data show we still lost over 100,000 people last year; meaning, there are still families and friends losing their loved ones to drug overdoses at staggering numbers,” CDC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deb Houry said in a statement.

Overdoses declined the most in Nebraska (-25%), Indiana (-18%) and Kansas (-16%). Meanwhile, Alaska (+44%), Nevada (+29%), Oregon (+30%) and Washington (+28%) showed substantial increases. 

As Emily’s Hope previously reported, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan for over-the-counter sales in March 2023. Officials say that may have played a role in the decrease in deaths.