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In a recent Medium post, Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., lamented the toll of addiction in his state and across the country.
"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 120 Americans on average die from a drug overdose every day," Pitts wrote. "Overall, drug overdose deaths now outnumber deaths from firearms."
We wondered whether those numbers were accurate, so we took a closer look.
The CDC calculates overdose deaths from prescription drugs separately from overdose deaths from illicit drugs. To get the full number, you have to add both categories together.
In 2014, there were 25,760 deaths from prescription-drug overdoses.
That same year, there were 17,465 deaths from illicit drugs, including heroin and cocaine.
The agency does not track overdoses from every illicit drug, so this accounting may understate the full number. Still, it provides a baseline. And if you add together the overdose deaths from prescription and illicit drugs, the sum is 43,225 overdose deaths.
Then, if you divide that by 365 days, it works out to more than 118 overdose deaths a day, or just shy of the 120-per-day figure that Pitts cited. That’s close enough for us.
We should note that the category of total overdoses includes accidental deaths, homicides, suicides and deaths of undetermined intent.
So how do the number of deaths from drug overdoses compare with the number of deaths from firearms?
According to CDC, there were 33,599 deaths caused by firearms in 2014. That includes homicides, suicides, legal interventions, accidents and cases of undetermined intentions.
So in 2014, there were indeed more overdose deaths (43,225) than there were deaths from firearms (33,599), making Pitts’ second claim correct.
Pitts said that "according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 120 Americans on average die from a drug overdose every day. Overall, drug overdose deaths now outnumber deaths from firearms." Pitts is very close on the first part, and he’s correct on the second. So we rate his statement True.
Joe Pitts, "One in Four," March 10, 2016
National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Overdose Death Rates," accessed March 21, 2016
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "WISQARS: Fatal Injury Reports, National and Regional, 1999 - 2014," accessed March 21, 2016
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