Nearly Every Aspect of Opioid Overdose Death Epidemic Worsened in 2014 Interview with:
R. Matthew Gladden, PhD

Behavioral Scientist
Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Gladden: The rate for drug overdose deaths has increased approximately 140% since 2000, driven largely by opioid overdose deaths.

Nearly every aspect of the opioid overdose death epidemic worsened in 2014. Drug overdose deaths increased significantly from 2013 to 2014. Increases in opioid overdose deaths were the main factor in the increase in drug overdose deaths. The death rate from the most commonly prescribed opioid pain relievers (natural and semisynthetic opioids) increased 9%, the death rate from heroin increased 26%, and the death rate from synthetic opioids (a category that includes illicitly-made fentanyl and synthetic opioid pain relievers other than methadone) increased 80%.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Gladden: Efforts to encourage safer prescribing of opioid pain relievers should be strengthened. Other key prevention strategies include expanding availability and access to naloxone (an antidote for all opioid-related overdoses), increasing access to medication-assisted treatment in combination with behavioral therapies, and increasing access to syringe service programs to prevent the spread of hepatitis C virus infection and human immunodeficiency virus infections.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Gladden: Future work needs to investigate the known and new factors that are driving recent increases in each of the three categories of opioids, natural semisynthetic opioids, heroin, and other synthetic opioids, in order to enhance public health efforts to prevent overdoses. Also, work is needed to better distinguish overdose deaths related to illicitly made fentanyl and deaths related to opioid pain relievers.


Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose Deaths — United States, 2000–2014

December 18, 2015 / 64(Early Release);1-5
Rose A. Rudd, MSPH1; Noah Aleshire, JD1; Jon E. Zibbell, PhD1;
R. Matthew Gladden, PhD1


R. Matthew Gladden, PhD (2015). Nearly Every Aspect of Opioid Overdose Death Epidemic Worsened in 2014 

Last Updated on December 22, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD