Suicide and Opioids

This graph represents age-adjusted death rates over a 15-year period. Motor vehicle death rates declined from 2006 to 2014, then rose steadily until 2020. Suicide saw a steady incline from 2006 to 2020. Unintentional poisonings sharply increased from 2006 to 2020. Homicides remained steady at lower rates than the other three causes of death, with an uptick in 2019 to 2020.1

This pie chart illustrates means of suicide deaths by various methods. Firearms accounted for a majority (53%) of the deaths by suicide, followed by suffocation (27%) and other (8%). Poisonings accounted for 12% of suicide deaths in 2020. The accompanying bar graph illustrates the contribution of various substances to poisoning suicides. As the graph shows, other and unspecified drugs and medicaments and biological substances are contributors in over 49% of poisoning deaths.1

This bar graph includes adults (18+) who reported serious thoughts of suicide in the past year. When adults with past-year pain reliever abuse (including opioids) are compared with the general population, they are at higher risk for suicidal thoughts. This pattern has held true every year for the past several years.2


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2021). 1999-2020 Wide Ranging Online Data for Epidemiological Research (WONDER), Multiple Cause of Death files [Data file]. Retrieved from
  2. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2021). 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD. Retrieved from

The charts and graphs in this section are also available as a PowerPoint slide set. Feel free to use this slide set to deliver a presentation about the scope of the suicide problem.