Opioid and Substance Misuse

The nationwide opioid epidemic started in the 1990s with increased opioid prescribing and opioid overdose deaths. Heroin and other synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, led to further increases beginning in 2010 (CDC - Understanding the Epidemic).  From 2010 to 2020, the total number of opioid-related overdose deaths in Georgia increased by 207%. In October 2017, HHS declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. 

Drug overdoses have been increasing both in Georgia and nationally since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Georgia Department of Public Health reports from 2019-2021, the total number of opioid-related overdose deaths increased from 853 to 1,718, an increase of 101%. These increases were driven largely by fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid often found in drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and counterfeit pills. From 2019 to 2021, fentanyl-related drug overdose deaths increased 124%, from 614 to 1,379. In 2021, there were 2,390 drug overdose deaths in Georgia; and 71% (n=1,718) were attributed to opioids and 57% (1,379) were attributed to fentanyl. Non-fatal drug overdoses are also increasing in Georgia. From 2019 to 2021, Emergency department visits and hospitalizations for drug overdoses increased 10%, from 24,886 to 27,388. 

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is working to combat the opioid epidemic through the following Programs:

  1. Opioid and Substance Misuse Response
  2. Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) 
  3. Drug Surveillance Unit 




Page last updated 2/22/23