Fatal Drug Overdoses

  • Purpose: To track the role of prescription and illicit drug use in accidental deaths, to assist health and social service agencies, public and private, as well as healthcare providers, in the treatment and rehabilitation of victims of drug abuse.
  • Key Information: Relevant statistics and and demographic information are collected on cause and manner of death attributed to accidental death drug overdose that may involve prescription medications (e.g. Vicodin and Oxycodone) and/or illicit drugs (e.g. like heroin and cocaine), either on their own or in combination with other substances.
  • Collection Period: 2009 to present.

Rhode Island Numbers

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Accidental Overdose Fatalities (Illicit & Prescription Drugs) 2011- June 2013

All overdose deaths, whether caused by illicit or prescription drugs, continue to increase and remain a leading cause of accidental death, with about four overdose deaths per week investigated by the Medical Examiner's Office.

Accidental Overdose Fatalities (Illicit & Prescription Drugs) 2009-2012

Alcohol was found to be a common contributing factor to accidental overdose fatalities when combined with either illicit drugs or prescription medication.

Accidental Overdose Fatalities (Prescription Drugs), 2009-2012

Accidental deaths involving prescription medications, such as Vicodin and Oxycodone, are still happening at an alarming rate, yet they are not increasing as fast as deaths from illicit drugs. The combined use of prescription medications with other substances, such as illicit drugs and alcohol, reveals a consistent and underlying trend of substance abuse and addiction, even as deaths caused by prescription drugs begin to stabilize.

Accidental Overdose Fatalities of Illicit Drugs 2009-2012

Preliminary data show that accidental deaths caused by illicit drug overdoses nearly doubled in Rhode Island between 2009 and 2012. Illicit drug overdose deaths involving substances like heroin and cocaine increased from 53 in 2009 to 97 in 2012.

Accidental Overdose Fatalities by Gender and Age, 2009 to 2012 total

  • Contrary to common assumptions, Rhode Island 's drug overdose epidemic is not limited to younger adult males. While men accounted for twice as many accidental drug overdose deaths from 2009-2012, people ages 40 through 60 accounted for most of drug overdose deaths overall.

Accidental Overdose Fatalities by Gender and Age, by Year 2009-2013

Source: Office of the Rhode Island State Medical Examiners