Every year for the past few years, we’ve gotten even more horrible statistics showing the harrowing impact of the opioid epidemic on America. In 2015, overall drug overdose deaths, largely as a result of the opioid crisis, reached a new historic record — topping deaths from guns or cars that year, and even the toll from HIV/AIDS at the height of that epidemic’s peak in 1995.
In 2016, we got another awful statistic: Drug overdose deaths reached another record — and, based on the highest estimate by a New York Times analysis of state data, topped total US casualties from the entire wars in Vietnam and Iraq.
The Times’s analysis calculated that 59,000 to 65,000 people died of overdoses in 2016, with a harder, but likely inaccurate, number of 62,497. (We’ll get the official numbers later in 2017.) In comparison, more than 58,200 US troops died in the Vietnam War between 1955 and 1975, and more than 4,500 have died so far in the Iraq War since 2003 — which adds up to more than 62,700.
Although it’s hard to say for certain, the Times suggested “the [opioid] problem has continued to worsen in 2017.” In short, the opioid epidemic was already the deadliest drug crisis in American history in 2015. It got much deadlier in 2016, and is likely even worse so far in 2017.
It can be hard to conceptualize the numbers we’re talking about here. So Bella Lucy from Vox’s graphics team put together the following chart. It requires a bit of scrolling.