May 25, 2022

Reference: New Analysis/Interactive Data Visualization Tool: “County-By-County Study Reveals 600% Increase in Drug-Related Deaths”

From the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington:

Deaths in the United States from drug use disorders between 1980 and 2014 increased overall by more than 600%, but in some counties the increases exceeded 5,000%, according to a new scientific study.

However, deaths generally decreased nationwide for alcohol use, suicide, and homicide.

The study, which covers every US county, was conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. It was [recently] published in JAMA.

More detailed study findings are available in the online data visualization tools available from IHME.

“To our knowledge, this study is the first at the county level to consider drug use disorders and distinguish between intentional and unintentional overdoses,” said Dr. Laura Dwyer-Lindgren, the study’s lead author and faculty member at IHME.

The study does not distinguish between illegal and prescription drugs, such as those in the class of opioids, including pain relievers available legally by prescription. It analyzed data provided by the National Center for Health Statistics, the US Census Bureau, and other sources.

Nearly 550,000 deaths were attributed to drug use over the study’s 35 years. Nationally, the age-adjusted death rate increased 238% between 1980 and 2000, and 112% between 2000 and 2014. Counties in Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and eastern Oklahoma had increases exceeding 5,000%.

Among the study’s other findings:

  • Between 1980 and 2014, there were more than a quarter million deaths in the US due to alcohol use; western counties generally had higher death rates than other parts of the nation, with especially high rates in parts of Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Alaska.
  • Nearly 1.3 million suicides were recorded from 1980 to 2014, with especially high rates in Alaska, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Wyoming, and one county in Maryland.
  • More than three quarters of a million deaths by homicide occurred in the US between 1980 and 2014. Age-adjusted rates decreased by about 35% between 1980 and 2000, and by nearly 16% between 2000 and 2014. The largest decreases were in counties in Virginia, Florida, Texas, California, and New York. However, homicides increased in counties in several Midwestern and Atlantic states.

Direct to Article (via JAMA)

Direct to Interactive Data Visualization Tool (US Health Map)


About the Health Map

explore health trends in the United States at the county level for both sexes for:

  • 29 cancers
  • 21 major causes of death
  • Life expectancy
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Physical activity
  • Alcohol use
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes

Use the settings at the top to select a year, cause of death, and sex. Use the time trend menu on the right to explore time trends for specific counties.

Direct to Downloadable Datasets From US Health Map

See Also: More Interactive Data Visualizations From IHME

See Also: Global Health Data Exchange Database (GDHx) 

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.