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The Rise of the Drug and Alcohol Epidemic

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Drug and Alcohol Induced Total and Per Capita Deaths from 2001 to 2015

Where does this information come from?

This information comes from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) database. The Underlying Cause of Death database contains mortality and population counts for all U.S. counties. Data are based on death certificates for U.S. residents. Each death certificate identifies a single underlying cause of death and demographic data. This data was mined to pull information where the underlying cause of death was drug or alcohol related. This data was then inserted into Tableau Public so it can be visualized in a more user friendly format.

How does it work?

The information displayed is from 2001 to 2015. The pages can be scrolled through to view year-by-year statistics. “Green” colors indicate that the total number of deaths or death rate is on the low end compared to the rest of the states. “Yellow” indicates the number is in the middle of the spectrum, whereas “Red” indicates the state is one of the worst in terms of total number of deaths or death rate from alcohol or drug related causes.

The page can be filtered so that only drug or only alcohol related deaths will be viewed. The years can be scrolled through as well starting from 2001 and ending at 2015.

What conclusions can be noted from this?

Drug related deaths have increased dramatically from 2001 to 2015. Heroin related deaths alone more than tripled between 2010 and 2015. The largest increase in overdose deaths from 2014 to 2015 was for those involving synthetic opioids which rose from 5,544 deaths in 2014 to 9,580 deaths in 2015. One of these synthetic opioids, illegally-made fentanyl, drove the increase. It was often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product—with or without the user’s knowledge.

It is interesting to note that there are more drug related deaths per capita on the east coast when compared to the west coast. One theory for this is that heroin on the east coast is “powdered” heroin which is easier to mix with cocaine or dangerous synthetics such as fentanyl. Heroin on the west coast is “black tar” heroin which isn’t mixed as often.

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