News Article

We’re Undercounting Opioid Overdoses by Thousands

Amid America’s deadliest drug epidemic, data on how many people use and die from drugs is a mess.

Friday, September 15, 2017

by Mother Jones

First came the headlines in August that 64,000 Americans had died of overdoses in 2016—a 21 percent jump from the previous year. Then came the news this month that the number of heroin users more than doubled between 2002 and 2016. The two biggest national data sets on drug deaths and use, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, respectively, show a quickly worsening epidemic—one that Heath and Human Services Secretary Tom Price called “heartbreaking.”

Yet the data that these figures are based on is murky at best. The CDC numbers are likely undercounting opioid deaths by thousands, and some estimate that the drug-use data falls short by hundreds of thousands.