Clinlab Navigator

Opioid Overdose Fatalities

Natural opioids include morphine and codeine. Heroin is an illicit opioid synthesized from morphine. Semisynthetic opioids include drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone. Methadone, tramadol and fentanyl are synthetic opioids. Prescription opioids include methadone, natural, and semisynthetic opioids.

In the United States, drug overdoses have resulted in 702,568 deaths between the years of 1999 and 2017, with 399,230 (57%) involving opioids. There were 63,632 drug overdose deaths in 2016, which was a 21% increase from 2015. Two thirds of these deaths involved an opioid. In 2016, 24% of deaths were due to synthetic opioids, especially illicitly manufactured fentanyl, 37% from heroin, and 40% from cocaine. The largest increase in deaths in 2016 was due to synthetic opioids other than methadone. Death rates involving opioids are highest among whites but increasing numbers of deaths are occurring in blacks.

Through 2017, the drug overdose epidemic continues to worsen and evolve. Deaths involving synthetic opioids continue to drive increases in overdose deaths.


Scholl L, Seth P, Kariisa M, Wilson N, Baldwin G. Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths — United States, 2013–2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 21 December 2018. DOI:

AddThis Social Bookmark Button