Causes of Fatal Injury in the United States: Drug Overdoses Near the Top

Hospital hallway.

As is the nature of human beings, we don’t like to dwell on the grim truth that is the hardships of our fellows and the struggles that so many Americans face. But we have to look at these issues. We have to sit side-by-side and face them, for only in facing them will we ever actually reduce them. Case in point, one of the most concerning issues before us is the issue of drug and alcohol addiction, and the death toll caused by such.

According to new research by the U.S. National Safety Council, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death amongst working-age adults, i.e. adults ages eighteen to fifty-four. What’s even more concerning is that, in more than half of such overdoses, a prescription drug was involved. Yes, another factor of life that is very prevalent, that we don’t want to discuss, but that we need to discuss, is that many prescription drugs are becoming more a danger to us than they are a benefit.

Fatal Injury on the Rise

The U.S. National Safety Council has reported on safety statistics and trends since 1921, almost one-hundred years of reporting. In that time, the U.S. National Safety Council has never seen devastation and death tolls from drug use on the level that occurs in the U.S. today. It is no longer a problem. It is no longer a crisis. It is no longer an epidemic. It is a national public health emergency.

Deadly pill.

Prior to the turn of the century, poisonings and overdoses were only a real concern for young children who would get into the medicine cabinet, the laundry room, the broom closet, or under the kitchen sink. True, an adult occasionally overdosed, and there have always been problems with isolated drug overdose deaths in lower-income and impoverished communities. But today’s drug problem transcends all of that, a crippling issue that threatens to topple the very fabric of our society.

Availing ourselves of this information is hard to stomach, especially considering that the real killer comes from drugs that are supposed to be helpful and beneficial to us. That’s a hard truth to accept. According to Ken Kolosh, statistics manager at the U.S. National Safety Council:

“… starting in 1993, a trend began to emerge of people in their 30s and 40s dying of unintentional poisoning, largely due to drug abuse.”

“Poisoning used to be a concern only for young children getting in the medicine cabinet and under the kitchen sink. But starting in 1993, a trend began to emerge of people in their 30s and 40s dying of unintentional poisoning, largely due to drug abuse. Heroin death also appears to be increasing, and we will be tracking that as well.”

The U.S. National Safety Council and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have much to be concerned about, as do the rest of us. But as the years go by, drug overdoses consistently move closer and closer to being the single greatest health concern in our country.

Resolving a Nationwide Epidemic

We don’t like to talk about drug overdoses because there is a particular misery to them. It’s an alien misery, a misery that most people cannot fully understand. But we need to understand it because it is a problem that may have only affected a scant minority of the population in the past, but which now has over twenty-four million Americans hooked.

Resolving a nationwide epidemic starts with communication. We need to make the statistics known. We need to encourage communication and the brainstorming of ideas to resolve the crisis. We need to push for rehabilitation of those hooked and we need to create broad awareness and education for the rest of us.




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 solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.