The World’s Epicenter of Drug Overdoses Pt. 1

Bonsu Thompson
3 min readMar 10, 2022

Why and how America leads the globe in narcotic-related death

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

Nowhere in the world are people dying more from drugs than in the United States. When it comes to unintentional narcotic overdoses, the land of the red, white and blue stands perched as undisputed global leader. Last year, over 100,000 Americans died from substance abuse. That total becomes even more polarizing when compared to America’s international competition. The world’s second leader in death by drugs is England, which in 2021 reported a tally of over 4,500, a mere fraction of the USA’s. In fact, if the annual death by overdose numbers of every other country around the globe are combined, the total still wouldn’t reach the United States’.

What’s scarier than this country’s overdose rate is its future; its numbers are on an incline. They’ve steadily increased over the last two decades with the most recent contributing to the lion’s share of quietus. In 1999, only about 17,000 people died from unintentional overdoses. By 2019, that number ballooned by an additional 53,000. This was before the COVID-19 pandemic which inspired an additional spike of 30,000 deceased. While the most significant increase began just over a decade ago, America’s fatality reign can be traced back nearly thirty years.

The drug most complicit in America’s statuesque overdose rate is the opioid. It accounts for 75% of the country’s death by drug rate. The initial rise of opioid-related overdoses in the United States occurred in the nineties. Aided by a wide ignorance conjoined with a stigma for the typical drug addict, medical professionals nationwide sparked a catastrophic trend of overprescribing opioids for pain relief. Doctors presumed unfathomable that the soccer mom who constantly requested pills to ease her skeletal or muscular pain could become opioid dependent. The mindset was that drug addicts were low lives incapable of juggling a family, career and substance usage disorder.

Then white Americans began dying at an alarming rate due to overdose. Opioid prescriptions were reevaluated and drastically lessened. This left many with a full blown dependency and no drugs. On cue, the black market swooped in to supply the demand. Civilians were able to buy as many pills as they desired. That is until their new tolerance outgrew…

Bonsu Thompson

Bonsu Thompson is a writer, producer, Brooklynite and 2019 Sundance Screenwriters Lab fellow.