One in five deaths among adults aged 25-34 is due to opioid-related causes, according to a study published this month in JAMA Network Open, an online journal published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Currently, the chance of dying in the US due to an opioid overdose is higher than that of dying in an accident, but the burden falls heaviest on young adults, the study found in a 15-year analysis of US mortality numbers through 2016.
“We found that one in 65 deaths was opioid-related in 2016, representing an enormous toll in YLL (Years of Life Lost),” wrote the study authors. “Indeed, in the United States, the YLL from opioid-related deaths exceed those attributable to hypertension, HIV/AIDS, and pneumonia.
“This burden is highest among adults aged 25 to 34 years…in this age group one in five deaths in the United States is opioid-related.”
Although opioid abuse has been widely called one of the leading public health problems in the US, the study aimed to quantify for the first time the burden it placed on key demographic sectors of the population.
Opioid-related deaths were defined as “those in which a prescription or illicit opioid contributed substantially to an individual’s cause of death as determined by death certificates.” In order to gauge an accurate representation of the current population, a cross-sectional design was used to determine the number of opioid related deaths in the US between 2001 and 2016.
Mortality and cause-of-death data was collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER database.
Within this slice of the population, seven categories were created based on age at the time of death, starting with ages from 0-14 and continuing with groups ten years apart. From this data, the study found startling statistics.
Over the 15 years analyzed by the report, there were 335,123 opioid-related deaths, with men accounting for 67.5 percent.
That works out to over 60 deaths per day. Not only is this number staggering, but it represents a 345 percent increase from 2001, the study said.
The study noted that opioids were involved in 1.5 percent of all deaths in 2016, regardless of age group. According to the statistics stated above, opioid drugs were responsible for almost 13 years lost (per 1,000), in the overall category of participants aged 25 to 34 years—a result the authors termed “alarming.”
The second highest burden from opioid deaths fell on adults aged 35-44 years, the study said, representing a loss of 9.9 years of life per 1,000 people in that age group.
According to the authors, the mortality rate from opioid-related causes has not only contributed to a decline in the quality of life, but also an overall decrease in life expectancy for an average American.
The authors said the high prevalence of opioid-use disorder requires modifications in America’s public health system, including abuse counseling and harm-reduction strategies aimed at preventing it from taking a larger toll of American lives.
The study was conducted by Tara Gomes, Ph.D.; Mina Tadrous, PharmD, PhD.; Muhammad M. Mamdani, PharmD, MA, MPH; J. Michael Paterson, MSC; and David N. Juurlink, MD, PhD.
The complete study can be downloaded here.
This summary was prepared by TCR news intern Laura Binczewski. Readers’ comments are welcome.