July 10, 2020

Missouri's rate of opioid deaths decreasing

Media Contact:
Lisa Cox
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services


Illustrations of data
*Source: Missouri Vital Statistics. 2019 data is provisional.


JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Opioid overdose deaths in 2019 decreased from 2018, marking the first year since 2015 that Missouri has experienced a decrease in opioid overdose deaths. The number of deaths due to opioid overdose decreased by 3.4% compared to the previous year. From 2015 to 2016 there was a 35% increase in opioid overdose deaths in the state, followed by a 5% increase in 2017, and a 19% increase in 2018.

In 2018, the number of opioid overdose deaths in the state peaked at 1,132 deaths. In total for 2019, there were 1,094 opioid overdose deaths, with 224 heroin deaths and 870 opioid deaths that were non-heroin related. This shows a continuing trend of a total decrease in heroin deaths as fentanyl is becoming more prevalent as an illicitly-manufactured opioid.

“We are encouraged by the decline and it shows a lot of hard work by many people in collaboration throughout Missouri. But it’s important to remember when looking at data that behind every number is a person and their unique story,” said Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “One overdose death is too many. Those who have lost a loved one to an opioid overdose can attest to that. There is still much work to be done.”

Black males continue to be the most impacted race-gender group in Missouri when it comes to opioid overdoses. Despite a statewide decrease in opioid overdose deaths, Black males experienced a 15% increase in deaths, resulting in an age-adjusted rate of 72.15 per 100,000. This is almost 4 times higher than the statewide age-adjusted rate of 18.82 per 100,000. While white male deaths decreased by 12%, they have the second highest rate at 20.36. Black females experienced a 15% decrease from the previous year, resulting in a rate of 17.69. The white female rate showed almost no change from 2018 and remains the lowest of the race-gender groups at 11.31 deaths per 100,000.

The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics recently released provisional counts of overdose deaths in the United States. These nationwide statistics showed an increase of 3.0% from 2018 to 2019 (12-month periods ending in November of each respectively). Despite the national increase, the number of opioid overdose deaths in Missouri have decreased. In 2019, 1,094 lives were lost compared to 1,132 in 2018 and while the rate of death has not yet reached 2017 levels (951 deaths) the overall annual decrease is encouraging. Nearly half of these deaths occurred in the St. Louis area. 

For more information related to opioid misuse in Missouri or how to get help, visit Time2ActMissouri.com.