The Six States Where You're Most Likely to Die of a Drug Overdose

Personal Health

A new report on accidental deaths from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation looks into the numbers state by state. The report, The Facts Hurt: A State By State Injury Prevention Policy Report, examines murders, suicides, drunk driving deaths, falls, traumatic brain injuries, and drug overdose deaths between 2011 and 2013 to arrive at overall rankings.


The report finds that the states with the highest combined accidental death ratings are (in order): West Virginia, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Montana, and Wyoming. The safest states, according to the report are (in order): New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, and Hawaii. You are more than twice as likely to die of accidental death in West Virginia than you are in New York.

But, as the report notes, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with nearly 44,000 a year, with half of them related to prescription drugs. Overdose deaths have doubled since the beginning of the century and now exceed motor vehicle deaths in 36 states and the nation's capital.

The risk of dying of a drug overdose is not evenly distributed. If you're a resident of a clump of states where then northern corn belt meets the Great Plains—Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota—your risk of dying of a drug overdose is extremely low. Only 2.6 people per hundred thousand died of drug overdoses in North Dakota, the lowest rate in the country, while the figure for Minnesota, with the highest rate in the clump, was only 9.3 per hundred thousand.

The median figure for drug overdose deaths per hundred thousand is around 13, with 11 states reporting rates of between 13.0 and 14.0.

But some states are much deadlier when it comes to drug overdoses. Here are the top six, all with drug overdose rates of 20 per hundred thousand or greater, with the rate per hundred thousand in parenthesis:

1.      West Virginia (33.5). Ground zero for the Appalachian Oxycontin explosion, the Mountaineer state leads not only in overdose deaths, but also in overall accidental deaths (97.9). More West Virginians dies of drug overdoses than traffic accidents.

2.      (tie) Kentucky (24.6) and New Mexico (24.6). The Bluegrass State is another state hard hit by the Appalachian opiate explosion and has seen drug overdose deaths increase in a statistically significant fashion, while the Land of Enchantment has been a land of heroin addiction for a long time. New Mexico also has the second highest overall accidental death rate (92.7) in the country. In both states, residents are more likely to die of drug overdoses than traffic accidents.

3.      Nevada (21.6). The Silver State comes in at number four. It's another state where drug overdose deaths have increased significantly in recent years. More Nevadans die of drug overdoses than traffic accidents. 

Utah (21.5). Go figure. That's an unexpectedly high rate for the Mormon-dominated Beehive State, but it's another state where overdoses have spiked in recent years. It's also a state with a relatively high overall accidental death rate (72.8). More Utahns die of drug overdoses than traffic accidents.

Oklahoma (20.0). The Sooner State rounds out the top six. It also has the third highest overall accidental death rate (88.4). More Oklahomans die of drug overdoses than traffic accidents.

Let's be careful out there. 

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