Drug overdoses surged in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health experts raised concerns in the pandemic’s early months about how the pandemic and the policies enacted to stem it might increase overdose risk. This brief summarizes the findings of a paper that used national data to identify how states’ COVID-19 policies affected drug overdose rates among U.S. adults ages 25-64 during the first year of the pandemic. Results show that counties located in states that adopted more aggressive in-person activity restrictions experienced larger increases in 2020 than counties located in states with fewer limitations. State economic support policies helped reduce overdose mortality rates, but not enough to offset the effects of the physical distancing policies.

Document Type

Policy Brief




COVID-19, Substance Use, Drug Overdoses, Population Health




National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Funding ID



Policy Briefs Series


This research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (U01DA055972). The views expressed in this brief do not necessarily represent the views of NIDA.


Demography, Population, and Ecology | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Public Policy | Sociology | Substance Abuse and Addiction

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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