Vermonters are healthy and 9 more...less...

Vermonters are healthy

Prevent and eliminate the problems caused by opioid misuse.

Vermonters are healthy

Vermonters are healthy

Vermonters are healthy





Number of accidental (non-suicide) drug deaths involving opioids


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Story Behind the Curve

Updated: August 2022

Author: Division of Substance Use Programs, Vermont Department of Health

Please note data for the most recent two years are considered preliminary and are subject to change.

As elsewhere across the country, drug deaths involving opioids have been steadily increasing. This is despite the fact that many of our strategies have been successful, such as a greater than 50% reduction in opioid analgesics (pain medication) dispensed in 2021 compared to 2015. Data shows that fatalities increasingly involve illicit fentanyl.

For more information, please search “Fatalities” in the Data and Reports section of the Health Department’s website.  In particular, the data briefs include information at the county level. Monthly information by county is also available in the data and reports section – search on “preliminary” to find the most recent information.

NOTE:  Vermont, as with the rest of the United States, saw a large increase in overdose fatalities that coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic.  COVID-19 first began to be diagnosed in Vermont in March 2020.  Some of Vermont's actions taken in response to overdose deaths are outlined in a document Opioid Overdose Response Initiatives: An overview of opioid overdose response strategies on our website.

Why Is This Important?

In Vermont, like other states, the use of heroin and misuse of other opioids (e.g. prescription narcotics) is a major public health challenge. Such disorders increase pressure on our health care, child protection, and criminal justice systems, and has far-reaching effects on families and communities.


The Department of Health Division of Substance Use Programs partners with:

  • Offices of Local Health Regional Prevention Consultants
  • Regional prevention partnerships
  • Schools
  • Treatment providers
  • Harm reduction agencies
  • Vermont Blueprint for Health Hub and Spoke system
  • Center for Health and Learning
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration

See more on our Community Prevention Programs page. 

What Works

Addiction to opioids is a complex and multi-faceted public health challenge. Programs and services that help communities become as healthy and involved as they can be are a key part of alcohol and drug use prevention in Vermont. Bringing communities together is a job for many people from all walks of life, including law enforcement, the news media, parents, students, community coalitions, and health care providers. Alcohol and drug prevention programs help support communities to grow in wellness and health.

The public health response involves six key elements: leadership; partnership and collaboration; epidemiology and surveillance; education and prevention; treatment and recovery; and harm reduction (1).

(1) Levine M, Fraser, M. Elements of a Comprehensive Public Health Response to the Opioid Crisis. Ann Intern Med. 2018;169(10):712-715


Vermont is taking a multi-faceted approach to addressing opioid addiction that involves multiple community partners. The Health Department has a leading role in the State’s comprehensive strategy.

Vermont public health strategies include:

  • Public information, social marketing, and messaging
  • Prescribing practices
  • Prevention and community mobilitation
  • Safe drug disposal
  • Early intervention
  • Overdose prevention and harm reduction
  • Access to treatment and recovery services
  • Legislation

For more details, see our 2019-2021 report on Public Health Strategies to Reduce Opioid Use Disorders, and our opioid response page.

Notes on Methodology

Vermont drug-related fatalities data come from the Vermont Department of Health Vital Statistics System and are based on deaths of Vermonters.

The drug-related fatalities reported here include accidents, suicides, homicides and fatalities with undetermined intent. All deaths involved at least one legal or illicit opioid including: heroin or prescription drugs.


This report does not include deaths due to chronic substance use (such as HIV, liver disease, or infection); death due to injury related to substance use (i.e., car accident or falls) or deaths due to medical professional error.

It is important to note that most drug-related fatalities are due to combinations of substances (e.g., a prescription opioid and cocaine, or illicit opioids and fentanyl), not a single drug. Additionally, the circumstances under which each of these fatalities occurred are unique, and cannot all be attributed to addiction and/or dependence.

Beginning in 2017, the Drug- and Opioid- Related Fatality Briefs present data differently than in the past to be consistent with the methods used by the Center for Disease Control.  The revised report has data on the total numbers of Vermont residents who died, regardless of where that death occurs (i.e. in Vermont or in another state).  Previously, the Brief reported on the total number of deaths that occurred in Vermont, regardless of the decedent’s state of residence.  For a more comprehensive explanation of the changes, see the methodology notes at the end of the Brief.  All historic information has also been updated to be consistent with the 2017 data.

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