Despite a Decline in Deaths, More than 100,000 Americans Lost Their Lives to Drugs in 2022

Nationwide trends regarding drug overdoses should be examined. However, it is equally important to examine local data and state-to-state figures, as what is occurring on a local level today can paint a picture of the nationwide trends tomorrow.

CDC Meeting

Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases findings on how many Americans died that year and what their causes of death were. This information enables public health officials and policymakers to implement policies, treatment programs, and prevention plans that promote health and well-being for Americans.

Recently, the CDC released its provisional count for drug-related overdoses in 2022. According to the preliminary findings, total deaths dropped for the first time since 2018. But upon closer examination, most U.S. states and territories are still recording an increase in drug-related fatalities.

CDC Data and a Closer Look

According to a provisional report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100,500 people in the United States died from drug overdoses in 2022. That figure reflects a 7.2% decline from the total number of fatal overdoses in 2021.1

However, the 7.2% drop is likely to be overestimated, with the CDC adding that they anticipate the decline in deaths to be closer to 3.2%. When the final figures are tallied, the CDC predicts there will have been 106,840 overdoses in 2022 compared to 110,000 in 2021. Further, the decline in deaths is not occurring evenly across the country, and most counties, cities, and states are still recording year-over-year increases in overdose deaths.

The good news is that states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky—all states that had been hit hard by the opioid epidemic in the 2000s and 2010s—are finally seeing a decline in overdose deaths. The bad news is that states that had mostly escaped the opioid epidemic are now recording alarming spikes in opioid-related overdose fatalities. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, just to name a few, have witnessed alarming spikes in overdose deaths. Some urban centers, like New York City, have recorded 10–15% increases in overdoses.

In truth, more states recorded an increase in overdose deaths in 2022 than those that recorded a decrease. The critical factor is that the decline in deaths in states that recorded a decrease was enough to drop the total number of deaths slightly. Some experts say this is only a brief reprieve. If current trends continue, 2023 will almost certainly record another spike to unprecedented fatality levels, effectively erasing from view the progress that’s been made in some states.

Fentanyl—along with other synthetic opioids—is being correctly labeled as the primary driver behind fatal overdoses in America. Fentanyl overdoses nearly doubled from 2021 to 2022, and the states that recorded significant spikes in deaths in 2022 identified fentanyl as being the primary driver behind those fatalities.2

Just in 2022, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized more than 379 million doses of fentanyl in drug busts, enough doses to kill every American. Such seizures and the widespread presence of fentanyl in overdose toxicology reports suggest this drug is the undisputed primary culprit behind America’s addiction epidemic.

What You Can Do to Keep Your Family Members and Loved Ones Safe

Family is helping addict

Drug use today is particularly alarming because it is likely to be fatal. While the consumption of mind-altering substances has never been safe or advisable, drugs today are more potent and addictive and are more likely to contain lethal chemicals in them (like fentanyl) that users are not aware of. To keep families safe, Americans must:

  • Prevent. Prevention is a first defense. It’s easier to prevent someone from becoming addicted than to treat someone once they’re hooked on drugs. Families should do everything possible to ensure their loved ones are educated about the harmful nature of drugs, even substances like cannabis that are said to be “less dangerous.”

  • Treat. When someone does fall prey to addiction, they must be treated as soon as possible. Addiction can easily be fatal, so families should waste no time seeking treatment for addicted loved ones. Qualified residential rehabilitation centers can provide a way out for those hooked on drugs.


  1. CDC. “Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023. ↩︎

  2. USNews. “Amid Apparent Drop in Drug Overdose Deaths, States See Varied Success.” U.S. News, 2023. ↩︎


After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective …
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