Data highlight

Oklahoma ranks 13 (of 50) for total drug-related deaths per 100,000 women. Hawaii ranks first with the lowest rate – 9.6 deaths (per 100,000 women). West Virginia is 50th with a rate of 84.6.


Number of female deaths due to drug injury (unintentional, suicide, homicide or undetermined) per 100,000 women ages 20-44




Drug-related deaths are fatalities caused by harmful effects of substances, whether they are unintentionally or intentionally consumed. As a public health metric, drug-related deaths can help us understand the impact of substance use on individuals and communities.

Why we care:

Drug-related deaths represent a significant loss of life and highlight the urgent need for effective strategies to prevent harm.

Women are particularly susceptible. They tend to be more sensitive to some substances due to biological differences. Women may also experience harsher physical effects on their heart and blood vessels and have a higher risk of death by overdose.

Fatalities due to drugs are heavily associated with substance use disorder (SUD), a chronic but treatable mental disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior. Someone with SUD struggles to control their use of substances (think legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications), which impairs their ability to carry on with their normal, daily life.

Despite the danger it presents, SUD remains a heavily stigmatized disease – especially for women. In many communities that call Oklahoma home, women are expected to be caregivers and nurturers. Because of this, women are more likely to have their substance dependency understood as a betrayal of responsibility to their loved ones.

Pregnant women are even further stigmatized. In parts of Oklahoma, lack of understanding underpins mounting efforts to criminalize using certain substances during pregnancy, despite evidence that incarceration hurts families in the long-term (see Female Incarceration Rates, ACEs Reported).

As with most health issues, the key to reducing drug-related deaths is prevention.

Decades of research show that SUD changes the chemical balance in the brain and overall physiology, making it difficult if not impossible for someone to stop using a substance on their own once dependence develops. Thankfully, there are a wide variety of evidence-based and increasingly individualized treatment options that can help.

Unfortunately, accessing this care – particularly medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – can be challenging. This is due to a variety of factors including cost (see Unable to See a Doctor Due to Cost), location of facilities (most are in cities), fear and stigma on the part of patients and healthcare professionals, and lack of qualified providers (see Access to Mental Health Services).

According to a 2023 KFF poll, 46% of Americans who have experienced addiction or have a family member who has received treatment for it. White adults were more likely than their Black and Hispanic counterparts to report that they or their family member was treated for SUD.

In 2021, nearly 500,000 Oklahomans aged 18+ needed treatment for SUD and did not receive it.

What we can do:

This issue brief was written by Metriarch staff as part of our Data Lookbook

Suggested citation
Metriarch. “Mental Health,” Data Lookbook (2024). URL:

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