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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Overdose Prevention Strategy

Publication Date
Rebecca L. Haffajee, Tisamarie B. Sherry, Joel M. Dubenitz, Jessica O. White, Daniel Schwartz, Bethany Stoller, Alicia J. Swenson-O’Brien, Teresa M. Manocchio, Timothy B. Creedon, and Erin Bagalman

From 1999 through 2019, there were more than 840,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States. The crisis has continually evolved and escalated, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, when an estimated 93,000 persons lost their lives to drug overdose in 2020--approximately a 30% increase over the year prior. The epidemiology of drug overdose deaths has shifted from primarily involving prescription opioids in the late 1990s and early 2000s to the current polydrug landscape, where synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl) and stimulants (e.g., methamphetamine, cocaine) are the major drivers.

Addressing the overdose crisis is a top priority of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). At the direction of the Secretary of HHS, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) convened an interagency workgroup of key HHS experts in overdose prevention and substance use disorders to develop a new strategy to address the evolving nature of the broadened overdose crisis. The Overdose Prevention Strategy includes four priority areas:

  • Primary prevention
  • Harm reduction
  • Evidence-based treatment
  • Recovery support

This issue brief discusses the Strategy in greater detail, including the objectives under each priority area, associated activities, and guiding principles. It was prepared through intramural research by HHS/ASPE. For additional information about this subject, you can visit the Office of Behavioral Health, Disability, and Aging Policy (BHDAP) home page at or Office of Science and Data Policy (SDP) at

Related Resources

Product Type
ASPE Issue Brief
Caregivers | Underserved Populations