2023 Data Shows Overdose Deaths Remain High, Underscoring Need for Public Health Interventions

Statement Kassandra Frederique May 15, 2024
Media Contact

Maggie Hart, [email protected]

New York, N.Y. – Following a steep rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, preventable overdose deaths in 2023 remained at staggeringly high levels in the United States. According to provisional CDC overdose death data released today, overdose deaths across the U.S. decreased slightly from 2022 but remain incredibly high—with 107,500 Americans dying each year, about 300 people every day. The data also reveals increases in overdose deaths in several states, particularly on the west coast where fentanyl has more recently entered their drug supply. This underscores the dangers of the unregulated, increasingly potent, and unpredictable drug supply, that has been driven by harsh crackdowns and criminalization. The United States has lost well over a million lives since this current overdose crisis started. Overdose deaths outpace the rate of vehicle traffic deaths and firearm deaths combined.

In response to the provisional data, Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), released the following statement:

“Continuing to lose over 107,500 lives to preventable overdoses highlights the failure of our elected leaders to save lives and the shortcomings of criminalization, which is the de facto response to drug use in the U.S. In fact, overdose occurs in jails and prisons at high rates and overdose risks increase after an individual is released from incarceration. We cannot continue to put our money and resources behind a criminal response to a public health crisis. Our elected leaders are especially failing Black, Latinx, and indigenous communities who are dying at rates that far outpace the general population.

“We can do more to expand access to evidence-based tools that work by reducing barriers to medications for opioid use disorder, opening overdose prevention centers, expanding syringe service programs, and increasing access to culturally competent harm reduction programs and treatment options.  And yet, instead of expanding these lifesaving services, the few evidence-based public health solutions that we have are being attacked by elected officials who are putting their political careers before the safety and wellbeing of our communities. We are losing our neighbors, our parents, our elders, our children. We at DPA refuse to allow more of our loved ones to die because legislators choose shame and stigma over science. It is our collective responsibility to ensure evidence-based services that keep people alive and barrier-free treatment options that meet people’s needs are available to all.”

More Information:

Fact sheet: Fentanyl Fact

Fact sheet: Overdose prevention centers

Toolkit: Protecting our Communities




About the Drug Policy Alliance 

The Drug Policy Alliance is the leading organization in the U.S. working to end the drug war, repair its harms, and build a non-punitive, equitable, and regulated drug market. We envision a world that embraces the full humanity of people, regardless of their relationship to drugs. We advocate that the regulation of drugs be grounded in evidence, health, equity, and human rights. In collaboration with other movements and at every policy level, we change laws, advance justice, and save lives. Learn more at drugpolicy.org.


A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

Sign up for updates from DPA.