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During his unsuccessful run to represent West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, Richard Ojeda made curbing opioid abuse one of the centerpieces of his campaign.
Speaking about opioids in remarks in a video uploaded to his Facebook page, Ojeda said, "We have lost more lives in the last two years -- 60,000 two years ago and we're already passing this year -- than all of the lives lost during the Vietnam War," he said on Oct. 24.
Did Ojeda -- a Democrat who has since announced his interest in running for president -- get his statistics right? We did not hear back from Ojeda’s campaign, but we located the data to answer this question.
Politifact has previously placed the number of U.S. service members who were killed in the Vietnam War at 58,220.
The most precise statistic we could find is for the number of opioid deaths, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defined as deaths from opioid analgesics, heroin or illicit synthetic opioids. The data does not cover 2018, so we took "the last two years" to mean the last two years for which data is available, which are 2016 and 2017.
In 2016, the CDC found that 42,249 Americans died from opioid overdoses. In 2017, according to preliminary CDC figures released in August 2018, the number of overdose deaths from opioids rose to 49,068.
Combined, the number of opioid overdose deaths in 2016 and 2017 was 91,317 -- well beyond the number of U.S. deaths in the Vietnam War.
Ojeda’s reference to 60,000 deaths two years ago appears to involve a broader statistic -- the number of overdose deaths for all drugs, not just opioids. The number of deaths in this category for 2016 and 2017 was 63,632 and 72,306, respectively.
Using this broader statistic, Ojeda would still be correct: The number of overdoses from all drugs totaled 135,938 over those two years, far higher than the number of service member deaths in Vietnam.
Ojeda said, "We have lost more lives in the last two years" due to opioids "than all of the lives lost during the Vietnam War."
More than 90,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016 and 2017 combined, and more than 135,000 died from all drug overdoses in those two years. Both are higher than the 58,220 U.S. service member deaths in Vietnam.
We rate the claim True.
Richard Ojeda, Facebook video, Oct. 24 2018
Richard Ojeda, Facebook video, Nov. 12, 2018
PolitiFact, "More Americans killed by guns since 1968 than in all U.S. wars, columnist Nicholas Kristof writes," Aug. 27, 2015.
National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Overdose Death Rates," August 2018
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