Skip to Main Content

America’s Opioid Epidemic Is Now Deadlier Than Both World Wars, Combined

Published on Written by

America is in the grips of one of the worst disasters in the nation’s history. A pharmaceutical plague that has claimed the lives of 309,363 Americans from 1999 – 2015. In 2015 alone, over 33,000 Americans died due to opioids. And since the death toll has risen every year over the last two decades, it’s safe to say that it will reach over 350,000 by the end of 2017.

To put that in perspective, that’s more deaths than the number of Americans who have died from…


Terrorism grabs more headlines than opioid overdoses, but prescription pills are actually much deadlier than religious extremists. Between 1975 – 2015, a total of 3,158 Americans died due to terrorist attacks in the United States. That includes the 2,977 people who lost their lives during the 911 attacks.

So instead of stoking fears of terrorists pouring over American borders, President Trump should focus more attention on the larger threat lurking in the family medicine cabinet, where opioid addiction often begins.

Capital Punishment

From 1770 to April 2017, a total of 15,760 people have been executed in the United States. That’s 9,183 deaths by hanging, 4,439 by electrocution, 1,350 by lethal injection, 593 by gas, 130 by firing squad and 65 by burning.

So the sum is less than one-fifth of the death toll for the opioid epidemic, unless you count the federal government’s failure to effectively respond to the crisis as a form of death sentence.


In 20 years, the opioid epidemic has claimed more American lives than hurricanes have over the last century.

According to Wikipedia’s death toll for natural disasters, approximately 24,220 Americans were killed by hurricanes since 1893. That includes devastating storms like Hurricanes Maria (2017), Katrina (2005) and Andrew (1992).

But those are like the proverbial tempest in a teapot compared to the raging opioid epidemic.


The flu has been around for centuries, so the cumulative death toll far surpasses that of the opioid epidemic. But opioids are catching up, unfortunately.

In the last 31 flu seasons, an average of 23,607 Americans died of influenza per year, which is almost 10,000 fewer lives than the opioid epidemic claimed in 2015 alone. The opioid epidemic has surpassed the flu’s death toll for the past 5 years. And it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

The World Wars

Opioids have claimed more American lives than the battlefields of both World Wars — combined. The United States suffered 53,402 combat deaths in World War I, and another 291,557 in World War II for a total of 344,959 lives lost in battle.

That’s over 5,000 fewer than opioid epidemic’s projected death toll by the end of 2017. 

What to read next

Subscribe to our newsletter

By clicking “submit,” you agree to receive emails from Civilized and accept our web terms of use and privacy and cookie policy.

Civilized Staff

The Civilized team is focused on providing quality content that builds awareness, educates, informs and entertains while authentically representing the cannabis, hemp and CBD communities.

Let’s see some ID

Where are you from?

Are you at least 21 years of age?

The content of this website cannot be shown unless you verify your age. Please verify to visit our site.