One in every 5 deaths in young adults is opioid-related in the United States: Study

June 1, 2018, St. Michael's Hospital
"Despite the amount of attention that has been placed on this public health issue, we are increasingly seeing the devastating impact that early loss of life from opioids is having across the United States," said Dr. Tara Gomes, a scientist in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's. Credit: St. Michael's Hospital

One out of every five deaths among young adults in the United States is related to opioids, suggests a study led by researchers in Canada.

The study, published today in JAMA Network Open and led by St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, ON, found that the percentage of deaths attributable to opioids in the U.S. increased by 292 per cent from 2001 to 2016, with one in every 65 deaths related to opioid use by 2016. This number varied by age group and sex. Men represented nearly 70 per cent of all opioid deaths by 2016, and the highest burden was among aged 24 to 35 years. This study expands on research in Canadian populations.

"Despite the amount of attention that has been placed on this public health issue, we are increasingly seeing the devastating impact that early loss of life from opioids is having across the United States," said Dr. Tara Gomes, a scientist in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's. "In the absence of a multidisciplinary approach to this issue that combines access to treatment, harm reduction and education, this crisis will impact the U.S. for generations."

Researchers reviewed all deaths in the U.S. between 2001 and 2016 using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WONDER Multiple Cause of Death Online Database. This record captures mortality and population estimates across the U.S. by age and sex. The most dramatic increase in illicit and prescribed opioid-related deaths was seen in those aged 24 to 35. By 2016, 20 per cent of all deaths in this age group were related to opioid use—up from only 4 per cent in 2001.

Dr. Gomes, who is also a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Ontario, and her team found that a total of 1,681,359 years of life were lost prematurely to opioid-related causes in 2016, which exceeds the years of life lost each year from hypertension, HIV/AIDS and pneumonia in the U.S.

"These numbers show us the dramatic impact of -related harms across all demographics in the U.S.," Dr. Gomes said. "We know this is not an isolated public health issue—it is one that spans across North America."

Explore further: One in every six deaths in young adults is opioid-related: study

Related Stories

One in every six deaths in young adults is opioid-related: study

April 25, 2018
One out of every six deaths among young adults in Ontario is related to opioids, suggests a study led by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

Nearly a quarter of Ontarians newly prescribed opioids received dose exceeding guidelines

May 16, 2018
Nearly a quarter (23.9 per cent) of initial opioid prescriptions in Ontario had a daily dose of more than 50 milligram morphine equivalents (MME), exceeding the suggested dose threshold for opioid prescriptions outlined in ...

One of eight deaths among young adults related to opioid use, research finds

July 9, 2014
One of every eight deaths among young adults in Ontario is related to opioids, making the drugs a leading cause of premature death, researchers have found.

US doctors prescribing fewer opioid painkillers: report

May 31, 2018
US doctors reduced the number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers last year, continuing a five-year trend, in an effort to reverse a deadly drug abuse epidemic, a report released Thursday said.

Vital statistics data can help fill gap about prescription opioid-related deaths

November 30, 2015
A new study indicates that Statistics Canada data could be used to estimate the number of prescription opioid-related deaths in Canada to aid in national surveillance of this important public health issue by provincial and ...

Gabapentin co-use may increase risk of fatal opioid overdose

October 3, 2017
Co-prescription of the anticonvulsant gabapentin is associated with an increased risk of opioid-related death in people who are prescribed opioid painkillers, according to a new study published in PLOS Medicine.

Recommended for you

Study: What patients really think about opioid vs non-opioid medications for chronic pain

August 14, 2018
Prescriptions of opioids for chronic pain has increased dramatically since the 1990s in spite of their known harms. Despite a shortage of scientific studies on the long-term effectiveness of opioids such as morphine, oxycodone ...

Doctors nudged by overdose letter prescribe fewer opioids

August 9, 2018
In a novel experiment, doctors got a letter from the medical examiner's office telling them of their patient's fatal overdose. The response: They started prescribing fewer opioids.

Benzodiazepine and related drug prescriptions have increased among young people in Sweden

August 7, 2018
The prevalence rate of prescriptions for benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine-related drugs (BZD)—medications used to treat anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric conditions—increased by 22% between 2006 ...

Unwise opioids for wisdom teeth: Study shows link to long-term use in teens and young adults

August 7, 2018
Getting wisdom teeth removed may be a rite of passage for many teens and young adults, but the opioid painkiller prescriptions that many of them receive could set them on a path to long-term opioid use, a new study finds.

Behavioral nudges lead to striking drop in prescriptions of potent antipsychotic

August 1, 2018
A study led by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health has found that letters targeting high prescribers of Seroquel (quetiapine), an antipsychotic with potentially harmful side effects in the elderly, significantly ...

US opioid use not declined, despite focus on abuse and awareness of risk

August 1, 2018
Use of prescription opioids in the United States has not substantially declined over the last decade, despite increased attention to opioid abuse and awareness of their risks, finds a study published by The BMJ today.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.