Many Cardiac Deaths May Actually Be Drug Overdoses

EMT and Heart Monitor
Photo by Chalabala/

When someone uses drugs, that pattern of use harms virtually every area, system, and region of the body. Drug use has a cumulative effect, the more one uses and the longer one uses for, the more devastating the effects become. Granted, some damage is caused by just one use, but the harm increases the more one uses and the larger quantities of drugs he consumes during each use.

All too often, the ultimate effect of drug and alcohol use on the human body is death. Sad and devastating in every possible way, this is a fate that tens of thousands of Americans face every year.

Just when it seems like the overdose crisis that has swept across America could not get any worse, a new study suggests that a large number of annual cardiac deaths may be caused by drug use.

What does this mean? It means that medical officials are now suggesting that annual U.S. drug overdose deaths have likely been seriously underestimated.

A New Revelation in Drug-Related Cardiac Deaths

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, recently analyzed hundreds of cardiac arrest fatalities among San Franciscans between 2011 and 2017. As it turns out, an undisclosed drug overdose may have triggered as many as one in six such deaths.

What’s very concerning about this is that, if the San Francisco data bears out on a national level too, that would mean national drug-related deaths have been grossly underestimated. Case in point, about 475,000 Americans die from cardiac arrest each year. If one in six of those cardiac arrests is caused by drug use, an additional 70,000 to 80,000 Americans are dying from drug-related causes that we did not account for until now.

The researchers found the information concerning, and not without good reason. This could be a crisis to the tune of tens of thousands more deaths occurring from drugs each year than had been initially recorded.

Just for some context, the recorded death toll from drug overdoses in 2018 was published at 67,367 deaths. Is it possible that the actual death toll was more than double that number?

What Can We Do With This Information?

How do we proceed, knowing that we may have underestimated the drug overdose death toll by tens of thousands? For one thing, it’s critical that autopsy reports accurately label the cause of death. Yes, it is understood that an individual can die from more than one cause, but all causes must be listed on the report. A drug overdose that leads to cardiac arrest should not be labeled as just a cardiac arrest death.

Moving forward beyond that, this additional knowledge must act as further impetus to appropriately tackle and resolve addiction in America. The death toll was already catastrophic, and this revelation merely sheds more concern and sadness on what is truly a devastating crisis.

We must work together to prevent drug overdoses. Suppose the San Francisco research is valid, and it’s possible that more than double the number of people are dying from drug overdoses than had been anticipated. This would mean that public health officials, emergency medical personnel, law enforcement, families of addicts, and community members must increase their efforts to prevent fatal overdoses. Prevention can include increasing efforts to stop drugs from coming into one’s community in the first place, raising awareness for drug addiction, trying to stop people from trying drugs, making sure that community members know how to respond to an overdose, and having naloxone at hand.

Addiction Treatment is the Answer to Avoiding Drug Deaths

Every year it seems, another discovery is made in how drugs cause harm and how drug use leads ultimately to death. Every time such a discovery is made, it becomes clear how important it is that those who struggle with addiction find and receive treatment as soon as possible.

Drug and alcohol addiction is one of the most dangerous public health crises in America today. But it is treatable. No one has to be an addict for life. Drug and alcohol rehab centers exist to help recovering addicts make stable and reliable steps away from addiction and towards recovery.

If you know someone who suffers from drug addiction or alcohol abuse, do not wait another day to get them help. Every day they put off seeking treatment could be their last. Contact Narconon today to take the first step towards putting your loved one on a path to recovery and a lifetime of freedom from drug and alcohol abuse.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



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.