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Comparing Data About Drug Overdoses

TempWe can talk about the opioid crisis and try to persuade people in many ways: by telling stories, showing pictures, or presenting data. The number of deaths from all drug overdoses in 2016 is 64,070, but without more context or comparisons, it's hard to know what this number means. Is it a lot?

One important data point for context is the U.S. population, which is about 324 million. Still, does this convince you this is a "crisis," as the media calls it? Temp

One convincing approach is to compare the number of deaths. When we compare the figure to deaths from car accidents, AIDS, and the Vietnam War, we see that, indeed, the deaths from drug overdoses are significant—at least compared to other death tolls we consider significant.

Here's an example of a simple bar chart to represent these numbers visually.

Image source (pills).


  • What other comparisons could work well to convince an audience that drug addiction is a serious issue?
  • A different approach is to personalize the crisis. I heard an interview with someone who almost died from an overdose, and he said that, about every six months, someone he knows dies from an overdose of opioids. How compelling do you find this report? What are the potential downsides of using this type of description?