About 1 in 3 Americans have lost someone to a drug overdose, new study finds

June 1, 2024
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Front lines of America’s fentanyl crisis


On the front lines of America’s fentanyl crisis

04:24

About one in three Americans know someone who has died of a drug overdose, according to a new survey. 

More than 2,300 adults responded to the survey, which was conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and published on Friday. 

Thirty-two percent of responders said someone they knew died of a fatal drug overdose. For 18.9% of respondents, the person they knew who died “was a family member or close friend.” 

The past few years have seen more than 100,000 people die of drug overdoses annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over 1 million people in the United States have died of drug overdoses since 1990. The majority of those deaths have been opioid-related, according to the CDC, particularly driven by synthetic opioids like fentanyl

The survey showed that while people across the political spectrum had similar rates of loss, they were more likely to see addiction as an “extremely or very important policy issue” if they knew someone who had died from an overdose. Researchers said this shows that people who have lost loved ones to overdoses may be able to band together to “facilitate greater policy change.” 

“The drug overdose crisis is a national tragedy,” said Alene Kennedy-Hendricks, who led the analysis, in a news release announcing the findings. “Although large numbers of U.S. adults are bereaved due to overdose, they may not be as visible as other groups who have lost loved ones to less stigmatized health issues. Movements to build support for policy change to overcome the devastating toll of the overdose crisis should consider the role of this community.”

A recent study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that more than 321,000 children in the United States have had parents die from overdoses in just the past decade. 

Economic costs associated with the opioid crisis are estimated to exceed $1 trillion annually in the United States, according to the survey. 



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