Death reporting in the U.S. requires an underlying cause—the event or disease that lead to the death. This chart represents all those listed in the CDC database as "accidental poisoning," "intentional self-poisoning," "assault by drugs," and "poisoning with undetermined intent." In addition to the underlying cause, a death certificate has space for up to 20 additional causes. That's where "cocaine" or "antidepressants" would show up. The subcategories are limited in their detail—many drugs are lumped together, like MDMA and caffeine, which are listed together as "psychostimulants." And about a quarter of all overdose death certificates don't have the toxicity test results listed at all, landing them in the "unspecified" stripe.
By adding all those sub-categories up, imperfect as they may be, it's clear that the rate of reported overdoses the U.S. more than doubled between 1999 and 2010. About half of those additional deaths are in the pharmaceuticals category, which the CDC has written about before. Nearly three-quarters of the pharmaceuticals deaths are opioid analgesics—prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. And while cocaine, heroin and alcohol are all responsible for enough deaths to warrant their own stripes on the chart, many popular illegal drugs—including marijuana and LSD—are such a tiny blip as to be invisible.
A few caveats about the statistics: if a person had multiple drugs listed on their death certificate, they're being counted twice here. Also, the database doesn't include nonresidents—either undocumented immigrants or U.S. citizens living abroad.
Its hard to understand the lack of science that goes into creating laws that govern an entire society.
Does it consider deaths due to what people do while under the influence (drunk driving) or just if you take a lethal dose of it?
The sugar comment has no place here. If this was a dietary article or one on diabetes or obesity it would fit but not here.
How can you put up this graph and expect people to believe the numbers when its got Marijuana lumped in with all of the truly dangerous drugs. MARIJUANA has NEVER caused a single case of overdose in all of human history. This information you are posting is incorrect. Maybe you should list Tobacco at the top...
Tobacco kills more Americans than all of these drugs + pharma = COMBINED! *400,000 Americans killed by Tobacco each year. Learn the truth people!
Drug laws are divorced from reality. They only serve to support the drug trade.
We cannot continue to lie to drug users and expect them to take us seriously.
They know better than anyone that all drugs are not bad, and all pharmaceuticals are not safe either.
Why would our children listen to us if they think we are fools?
Looks like Alcohol overdoses have doubled in the last few years as well.
Good job. People don't like to hear the truth these days.
All they use google for is to search for porn.
Taylorjusher That is because people are believing the lie that legal drugs are safe and illegal ones are dangerous.
They are trusting the law and it is killing them, while the reckless "outlaws" using overpriced, contaminated, incorrectly dosed, illegal drugs are still alive and partying.
@hemp solutions - I feel you, but the graph is actually Pro MJ... Look at it closely, that very tiny, very almost invisible gray line at the top? yes... MJ is lumped in there, and if you read the article, it isn't due to death by that substance, it should be titled "Substances in Body upon Death". I laugh because we are so open to drinking (remember prohibition? The gun slingers sneaking booze in?) yet it is many factors of scale larger than the deaths with MJ...
@killerT - Google can find Porn? WTF? How and since when? :)
Color gray, often used to illustrate we cannot decide.
We human tend to die of multiple things. But at the end at our death a doctor will often just list one or a few things that nailed our coffin, not all, so this graph omits life’s many harsh realities and other details.
The elderly obese man had drugs in his system as he stepped in front of the bus that squished him, running away from his angry wife with that machete.
So what exactly killed the man?
Good to see the folks over at PopSci are focusing on Cannabis and the many benefits of this wonder plant. The time has come to enlighten the people with the truth. Keep up the good work, PopSci. #OpCannabis
I agree sugar, salt and other chemicals added to our foods, needs to be focused on just as aggressively as other chemical components that we consume. People are dying young from cirrhosis of the liver, traditionally caused from alcoholism; yet they have never consumed alcohol.Upon autopsy,their fatty liver disease resembled that of an alcoholic. However the culprit was excess sugar and sodium intake combined with obesity; from a life time of eating processed foods!
More proof that the war on drugs is a wasteful fallacy.
Absolute BS. I don't know where they got these statistics but I don't believe them one bit. Alcohol and opioids like heroin have got to be the drugs causing the most death..
The graph is anything but clear.
I agree that sugar is a drug, and that is extremely unhealthy (I avoid it).
All that being said, one of your sources is incorrect and meaningless.
"Sugar is One Atom Away from Cocaine
Not only is sugar(C12H22O11) not one atom away from cocaine (C17H21NO4), but if it was it wouldn't really mean anything... For instance, Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) is one atom away from Water (H20). Drinking Hydrogen Peroxide will result in death, but water is something we need to live.
ElecMan, one can easily die from an overdose on water even though "...water is something we need to live."
This graph isn't all that informative...
OTHER THAN the smallest and largest categories (and the pointless unspecified category), there doesn't appear to be much of a difference between those other categories...nor an increase in overdose over time for the smaller groups. I doubt there would be any statistical significance in comparing deaths across those groups.
The only thing this graph really shows me is that pharmaceutical overdoses have increased quite a bit from 1999-2010
Between 1999 and 2010 the US population increased by 11% to 308 million. In that same time green pharma related drug deaths increased from 2.7 to 9.9 per 100,000 per year (1.8cm by ruler to 6.6cm where 25%=16.6cm on that questionable graphic). Thats 22,226 more deaths in just 2010. Were there changes in reporting method? Are these additional deaths treatment related or do they include suicides or murders?
Does anyone remember the article that Popsci wrote about the flaws in the chemistry that goes on in these toxicollogy reports? can we really trust these numbers?
This graph shows several things that people seem to not be getting. Most importantly 1: FDA approved pharmaceuticals are by far the greatest and fastest growing source of overdoses, and 2: overdoses from cannabis and all of the psychedelics COMBINED (LSD, mescaline, etc) are practically zero, and need to be lumped in with 'overdose by assault' (basically murder by poisoning) in order to even show up as a single pixel wide line on this graph.
Diverdan, I believe 'treatment related' would fall under unintentional self-harm, the largest sub-category. Suicides would fall under intentional self-harm, which has grown a negligible amount, but almost nothing compared to the unintentional category. Murder would show up under 'overdose by assault', which is a part of the grey category, and practically statistically nonexistent.
Ugh, i'm sure this infographic will be very useful, but i really dislike the sensationalist title. Something like "Deaths by Drug Overdose, Group by Drug" would have been a billion times better. Please be more responsible. You're giving a lot of readers the wrong idea.
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Nope, it is not possible to overdose on marijuana. Theoretically one could overdose on it, but in reality those levels could never be reached.
Marijuana also doesn't cause cancer.
There have been no recorded deaths due to marijuana use alone either.
Obviously smoking it will produce some negative effects, however those effects aren't nearly as serious as people try and make it seem.
That being said, there are healthier methods of ingestion such as vaporizing, tinctures and edibles. Those methods still can't yield a toxic response and nullify the risks associated with smoking.
Stole this from yahoo answers By the truth...
This is insulting that Marijuana is lumped in there at all. It has been proven in at least a half a dozen studies (look them up for yourself) that it's impossible to overdose on marijuana we would have to smoke a few thousand joints in 5 mins and I don't see it getting passed 50 and that is smoking as fast as possible. So the face that it's lumped in with LSD, Opium, and mushrooms should be considered an insult to the readers intelligence.
@Auroria: You forgot one important point;
You would die without sugar. Truth be told, your body will start to make its own sugar if you don't supply it (gluconeogenesis).
Perhaps you should do a tad more research than just popular press--do some reading of primary sources. Your ill-informed post does reveal one truth: excess intake can be harmful. Remember, the difference between a medicine and a poison is dose.
I think the next question people should be asking (in order to start a discussion) would be: "What causes could contribute to an increase in pharmaceutical overdoses?"
Starting with the obvious (but there are plenty of other reasons): Easy access.
It seems to me that certain things that have been lumped together were done so arbitrarily so. Case in point: Cannabis being lumped into the same category as LSD and "overdose by assault." What is not effectively represented, conspicuously seemingly by design, are drugs that cause zero deaths.
One or more of these things is not like the others and it is buried in a footnote. Not very bloody scientific PopSci...
1. This chart shows deaths caused by drug overdose. It does not show deaths from chronic health problems caused by drug use, nor accidents (car crashes, falls), nor suicides while intoxicated. If all these other deaths were shown, the death count for alcohol would be much, much greater.
2. Overdose deaths from cannabis, LSD, magic mushrooms, and mescaline are virtually unknown. It would be more accurate to say that "Other" includes PCP, which can cause overdose deaths.
I agree very much about sugar. People concentrate on illegal drugs when legal drugs kill many times more. In France Alcool is third biggest killer. Here government encourage to drink wine..