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Overdose Deaths Dropped in U.S. in 2023 for First Time in Five Years, But Still More Than 100,000 Lives Lost 

Vital Strategies Statement: States must urgently deploy billions available to scale up public health solutions 

For the first time in five years, overdose deaths in the United States saw a decline, according to federal data released on Wednesday. Drug Overdose deaths in 2023 were estimated at 107,543 deaths, down from 111,029 in 2022, a 3 percent decline.  

Statement from Daliah Heller, Vital Strategies, Vice President of Drug Use Initiatives  

“It is a relief to see that overdose deaths are plateauing, and even declining in some parts of the country, and for some populations. It is too soon to know whether this trend will continue and there is no time to rest when the 107,000 lives we lost to overdose in the past year is double the number from 2015.  

While these data do suggest declines in deaths occurred in many states where overdoses have been historically high, they also show increases in deaths in other states. Moreover, these data do not yet tell us what is happening in different demographic groups: overdose fatalities have risen steeply in Black and Indigenous populations across the country over the past decade, surpassing deaths in the white population since 2019, and disparities have widened dramatically since then.  An overall decline can mask considerable increases in specific populations.  

It is our fervent hope that in a few years’ time, we can look back on 2023 as the start of a precipitous decline in overdose deaths in the United States. Like any public health crisis, the overdose crisis must be met with strong leadership from government, and equitable, wide-reaching, and sustained investment in communities. The crisis has complex and fast-moving drivers, the most pressing of which is the potency and volatility of an increasingly synthetic drug supply, and we must mount a public health response to match. 

States and local governments represent the most important locus for action. Billions of dollars have been made available to address the overdose crisis through federal grants, opioid litigation settlements, and state legislatures. We must act urgently to ensure these resources are allocated rapidly in partnership with communities, and implemented effectively for public health interventions, especially including scaling up low-barrier access to treatment medications buprenorphine and methadone, expanding community distribution of low-dose naloxone, the overdose reversal medication, and drug-checking strips for all people involved with drug use, and ensuring that safer drug use supplies and harm reduction services are offered in every community. It is important that governments stand for a health-based, compassionate response, and shift policies and practices away from any reliance on punishment or coercion. Media campaigns can help to promote and accelerate this shift by building public support, reducing stigma, and promoting services for people who use drugs.  

An equitable and sustained reduction in overdose deaths will require an equitable and sustained investment in a public health response, and state and county governments must lead the way.” 

About Vital Strategies       

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our overdose prevention program works to strengthen and scale evidence-based, data-driven policies and interventions to create equitable and sustainable reductions in overdose deaths. Work across seven U.S. States is supported by funding from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Overdose Prevention Initiative, launched in 2018, and by targeted investments from other partners.     

Learn more at    


Tony Newman, Vital Strategies:, 646-335-5384    

Gloria Malone, Vital Strategies: