Deaths blamed on drug use soar 600 percent from 1980-2014


Deaths due to drug overdoses in the United States have risen dramatically in the past several decades, hitting West Virginia and Kentucky especially hard, even as mortality rates blamed on other causes from substance abuse or intentional injury have dropped.

Deaths blamed on drug-use disorders soared 618.3 percent from 1980 to 2014, according to a study examining county-level mortality data published this week in the medical journal JAMA.

Although drug-related deaths increased in every county in the United States over the period of study, the Appalachia area near the border of West Virginia and Kentucky, as well as Ohio, Indiana and Oklahoma, saw the highest concentration of such deaths.

In some cases, drug-related deaths increased by more than 5,000 percent over the period of study. CNN noted that the report detailed a spike of 8,369.7 percent in Boone County, West Virginia, which experienced 57.1 deaths per 100,000 people over the study period.

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Drug overdose deaths per state, 2015
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Drug overdose deaths per state, 2015

North Dakota

Deaths per 100,000: 2.7

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South Dakota

Deaths per 100,000: 6.4

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Nebraska

Deaths per 100,000: 7.3

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Iowa

Deaths per 100,000: 8.7

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Minnesota

Deaths per 100,000: 9.4

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Virginia

Deaths per 100,000: 9.5

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Texas

Deaths per 100,000: 9.8

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New York

Deaths per 100,000: 10.6

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Mississippi

Deaths per 100,000: 10.7

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Georgia

Deaths per 100,000: 10.8

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Kansas

Deaths per 100,000: 11.1

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California

Deaths per 100,000: 11.3

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Hawaii

Deaths per 100,000: 11.8

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Maine

Deaths per 100,000: 11.9

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Illinois

Deaths per 100,000: 11.9

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Alabama

Deaths per 100,000: 12

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Arkansas

Deaths per 100,000: 12.1

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Oregon

Deaths per 100,000: 12.5

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Idaho

Deaths per 100,000: 12.8

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Vermont

Deaths per 100,000: 12.9

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South Carolina

Deaths per 100,000: 13

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North Carolina

Deaths per 100,000: 13

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Wisconsin

Deaths per 100,000: 13.1

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New Jersey

Deaths per 100,000: 13.1

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Connecticut

Deaths per 100,000: 13.1

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Maryland

Deaths per 100,000: 13.4

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Montana

Deaths per 100,000: 13.4

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United States average

Deaths per 100,000: 13.5

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Massachusetts

Deaths per 100,000: 13.7

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Florida

Deaths per 100,000: 13.9

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Washington

Deaths per 100,000: 14.1

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Louisiana

Deaths per 100,000: 14.4

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Michigan

Deaths per 100,000: 14.5

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New Hampshire

Deaths per 100,000: 14.5

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Washington, D.C.

Deaths per 100,000: 14.9

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Alaska

Deaths per 100,000: 15.3

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Colorado

Deaths per 100,000: 15.8

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Indiana

Deaths per 100,000: 15.8

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Wyoming

Deaths per 100,000: 16.4

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Missouri

Deaths per 100,000: 16.4

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Delaware

Deaths per 100,000: 17.2

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Tennessee

Deaths per 100,000: 17.6

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Arizona

Deaths per 100,000: 18.1

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Pennsylvania

Deaths per 100,000: 18.7

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Ohio

Deaths per 100,000: 18.9

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Rhode Island

Deaths per 100,000: 19.6

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Oklahoma

Deaths per 100,000: 20.3

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Utah

Deaths per 100,000: 21.9

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Nevada

Deaths per 100,000: 22.4

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Kentucky

Deaths per 100,000: 24

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New Mexico

Deaths per 100,000: 24.4

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West Virginia

Deaths per 100,000: 32.4

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Meanwhile, deaths from other causes dropped overall. Rates of deadly alcohol use disorders decreased by 8.1 percent over the length of the study period, driven by an 11 percent decline between 1980 and 2000 alone. Suicide rates overall decreased 6 percent.

Deaths due to interpersonal violence – defined as domestic violence or abuse – dropped 44.9 percent.

The disconnect between the trends of various so-called "deaths of despair" – drug use, alcohol and suicide – undercuts an argument made by some to discount the role of addiction in the opioid crisis.

"If this was a 'deaths of despair' phenomenon, you would likely see alcohol deaths and suicides and all these factors rising together in the same areas," Dr. Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, who was not involved with the study, told CNN. "But this paper debunks that. There are geographic differences, and the rates of deaths didn't all go up together.

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