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We estimate ~15% of all drug deaths are caused by fake pills and 2-3 times that for youth ages 15-24.


For the 12 months ending June 2021, CDC projects for all ages:

  • Over 100K drug-induced deaths, +21% vs. prior year.

  • Over 64K of these deaths involved fentanyl, mostly illicit, and often in combination with other drugs; this is +34% vs. prior year.

  • Fentanyl was in 64% of all drug deaths, 84% of all opioid deaths.

Youth (Age 15-24) drug-induced deaths:

  • Have tripled over 20 years, driven recently by Fentanyl involvement which has grown ~6X in 5 years (+491%).

  • Meanwhile, in the same 5 years, deaths from Meth, Cocaine, Heroin, Benzos, & Legit Opioids combined have been mostly flat (+11%).

  • Fentanyl is involved in more youth death than all other drug types combined; many deaths involve multiple drugs.

  • In 2021, ~7,000 youth will have died with fentanyl involved,76% of all youth drug death. 

  • 14 & 17 year-olds have been more than twice as impacted by the growth in fentanyl death involvement over the last 5 years than all other ages.

Research on Dangers of Counterfeit Drugs among Young Americans (Age 13-24) shows that:

  • 86% say people their age feel overwhelmed, 71% feel there is a stigma surrounding mental health issues, and only 41% are comfortable talking about their mental health.

  • Coping with stress is the top reason cited for using prescription drugs without a prescription. 84% say that “coping with stress and anxiety” is a reason people may abuse prescription drugs.

  • Only 27% of Teens are aware of fentanyl being illicitly used in counterfeit pills, while half of Young Adults are aware of this issue.

  • When asked to rate how dangerous various drugs are, only 27% of teens and 44% of Young Adults say this about fentanyl, far less than for heroin and cocaine.

  • Nearly 1-in-4 (23%) don’t know enough to rate fentanyl’s danger at all, the highest level of uncertainty among drugs evaluated. This lack of information on fentanyl is even more common among Teens (35%).



Updated April 2022. All final through December 2020 + selected provisional data through Q32021

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