To solve this problem, the National Center for Health Statistics and the Food and Drug administration developed a method to analyze the "literal text" (literally, the text) on death certificates to tease out specific drug mentions. It worked, and here are some of the findings...
- Between 2010 and 2014, drug deaths grew 23 percent—from 38,329 to 47,055.
- The percentage of overdose deaths that specified at least one drug on the death certificate climbed from 67 to 78 percent between 2010 and 2014.
- Heroin was the top drug mentioned in overdose deaths in 2014, accounting for 23 percent of the total. Cocaine was second and oxycodone third.
- The number of heroin overdose deaths more than tripled between 2010 and 2014, rising from 3,020 to 10,863.
- Among overdose deaths with a drug mention, 52 percent mentioned only one drug and 48 percent mentioned two or more. The average was 1.9.