New CDC Statistics Reveal Deepening Drug Epidemic

Around the country, local coalitions, state and federal governments and all kinds of professionals are putting their heads together to address the growing number of losses due to drug overdoses. But new evidence recently compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows us that we do not yet have this situation under control. Not even close.

The US is suffering from ever-increasing overdose deaths.
Photos by Oleg Golovnev/Alexander Lukatskiy Photography/

The CDC’s new report compares the loss of life from two time periods: The twelve-month period ending May 2016 compared to the twelve-month period ending May 2017. Their report indicates for each state and for New York City and Washington, D.C. whether losses went up or down and how much.

Before I get to the really bad news, here are the states that had fewer deaths and their percentages of reduction.

  • Wyoming -23.4%
  • Utah -19%
  • Alaska -15%
  • Nebraska -8.1%
  • Washington -7.6%
  • California -3.9%
  • Mississippi -2.5%
  • Oregon -1.5%
  • Rhode Island -1.5%
  • Hawaii -1.1%

California’s reduction of 3.9% relates to the 4,628 lives lost in that state and Wyoming’s reduction of 23.4% resulted in a loss of 72 lives in the period ending May 2017.

Here are the states where the number of losses was virtually equal in both time periods.

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico

Increasing Numbers Describe More Lost Lives, More Grieving Families

Too many states took a bigger hit in the twelve-month period ending May 2017. Here are all the states with increases over 20%, starting with the biggest increase.

  • District of Columbia +77.8%
  • Florida +45.4%
  • Pennsylvania +44.8%
  • Delaware +43.1%
  • Maryland +42.8%
  • Vermont +33.7%
  • New Jersey +31.4%
  • New York City +28.8%
  • Indiana +28.6%
  • West Virginia +23.7%
  • South Carolina +23.6%
  • Alabama +22.6%
  • Virginia +21.8%
  • North Dakota +21.2%
  • Maine +21.1%
  • Missouri +20.7%

Several states that were already burdened by a high death rate took an even greater hit in this twelve-month period. West Virginia already had the highest rate of overdose deaths in the nation and definitely didn’t deserve an increase of 23.7%.

Ambulance flies through the night.
(Photo by cleanfotos/

Florida had the greatest increase of all the states, topping 5,000 deaths for the first time. The only other states to see deaths surpass 5,000 were Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Every major news service in the country covered the story in September 2017 when the National Center for Health Statistics announced that overdose deaths for 2016 exceeded 64,000. According to this new report from the CDC, we are going to see an even higher number of deaths when the numbers for all of 2017 are totaled and verified. In this twelve-month period ending in May 2017, deaths reached 66,324, up 17.4% nationally from the earlier period.

The CDC notes that these numbers could change slightly as they are finalized. But it’s unlikely that we will see a brighter picture when that happens.

To access the CDC statistical report, click here.

What Are We to Do?

We must never give up hope or quit fighting this epidemic. There is so much that each of us can do. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • If you are a parent or work with children, set an excellent example of sobriety.
  • If you have children of your own, start your drug prevention conversations early, adjusting the message to their ages.
  • With children of the appropriate ages, be explicitly clear that you expect no underage alcohol use at all and zero drug use.
  • Learn about the drugs in circulation in your area and educate your children on the life-threatening dangers of their use.
  • Help your children understand that starting with tobacco, alcohol or marijuana—which may seem so “normal” and relatively harmless—makes it so much easier to switch to highly addictive and dangerous drugs.
  • With your children, practice ways they can resist peer pressure to join in underage drinking or use of any drugs. Work out scripts to enable them to get out of these situations without being obvious or inviting ridicule.
  • Look for local or state anti-drug coalitions and help them however you can.
  • Support rehabilitation programs that achieve a good rate of recovery.
  • If you hear of a friend or family member who is struggling with drugs or addiction, encourage others to skip the stigma and simply find the person effective help.
  • In your home, minimize the use of painkillers, sedatives, tranquilizers or other drugs that are subject to abuse.
  • Lock up every single pill so none can fall into the wrong hands.
A father talks to his son about drugs.
(Photo by Golden Pixels LLC/
  • Encourage your children or other youth you are in contact with to set goals and work steadily toward achieving them as this improves self-esteem and helps motivate young people to avoid drug use.
  • Take note of drug-related news nationally or in your community. In particular, keep yourself informed of new drug threats in your area.
  • Keep yourself educated on new laws and other legislative changes and write to your legislators to let them know where you stand on drug and recovery-related issues.
  • When you have the chance, thank law enforcement personnel and first responders for their help with this problem.
  • Be alert. Know the signs of drug use by youth. Know where young people are likely to hide drugs.
  • Educate yourself on the symptoms caused by the use of commonly abused drugs.
  • If someone close to you is addicted and not yet in rehab, know the 14 rules that can help you survive this difficult time.

If all Americans and in particular, all parents were more alert to this problem and more focused on the prevention of drug use, this vigilance can begin to reduce this catastrophic loss of life. It’s a terrifying problem but it’s not the time to flinch.

The Narconon network of drug rehabilitation centers across the United States have one purpose: to return those who were addicted back to sober lives. Our graduates don’t have to rely on substitute medications like Suboxone or methadone. They achieve a great reduction of their cravings and a big boost in life skills to apply. They’ve learned how to live in the present, create their sober futures and leave their trauma and guilt in the past.

For more than fifty years, the Narconon drug rehab program has been the choice of tens of thousands of families. Find out why. And when you or someone close to you needs help, please call us at 1-888-391-7310 and learn how the Narconon program can help.


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.