About 700 people died in Virginia from drug overdoses, mostly prescription opioids, from 2007-2010, Sullivan writes. That number jumped to 800 in 2011, then after the arrival of fentanyl, 1,028 in 2015. Nationwide, more than 28,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2014. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said heroin deaths have tripled since 2010, with 10,500 deaths in 2014. Rural areas nationwide have been hit especially hard by opioids.
Deaths from synthetic opioids other than methadone—such as fentanyl and tramadol—increased from eight percent to 18 percent in 2015, says a study from February by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To show how bad the epidemic has gotten in the U.S., despite the high numbers in Virginia from the state medical examiner, in 2015 Virginia had the 12th lowest age-adjusted drug-overdose death rate at 12.4 per 100,000 people. West Virginia led the nation in 2015, with a rate of 41.5.