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Unintentional overdoses rose for the ninth consecutive year in 2021

August 14, 2023

There were 464 workplace fatalities from unintentional overdoses due to nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol in 2021. This is a 19.6-percent increase from 2020 when there were 388 fatalities and is the ninth consecutive annual increase. Unintentional overdoses from nonmedical use of drugs include overdoses from stimulants such as methamphetamine and from narcotics such as fentanyl.

 Workplace deaths due to unintentional overdoses from nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol, 2011–21
Year Workplace deaths due to unintentional overdoses

2011

73

2012

65

2013

82

2014

114

2015

165

2016

217

2017

272

2018

305

2019

313

2020

388

2021

464

Unintentional overdoses from nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol represented more than half (58.2 percent) of the cases in the broader event category, exposure to harmful substances or environments. This event category had 798 workplace fatalities in 2021, 18.8 percent more than in the prior year. In total, there were 5,190 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2021, an 8.9-percent increase from 4,764 in 2020.

Fatal work injuries by major event or exposure, 2017–21
Major event or exposure 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021

Transportation incidents

2077 2080 2122 1778 1982

Falls, slips, trips

887 791 880 805 850

Violence and other injuries by person or animal

807 828 841 705 761

Contact with objects and equipment

695 786 732 716 705

Exposure to harmful substances or environments

531 621 642 672 798

Fires and explosions

123 115 99 71 76

These data are from the Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities program. To learn more, see “National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2021.” We also have more charts on work-related deaths.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Unintentional overdoses rose for the ninth consecutive year in 2021 at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2023/unintentional-overdoses-rose-for-the-ninth-consecutive-year-in-2021.htm (visited May 21, 2024).

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