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One in every five young adult deaths in the US is related to opioids

The study found that the percentage of deaths attributed to opioids in the US increased by 292% from 2001 to 2016.

Image: Kimberly Boyles via Shutterstock

ONE IN EVERY five deaths among young adults in the US is related to opioids, a study by Canadian researchers has found.

The study found that the percentage of deaths attributed to opioids in the US increased by 292% 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% of all opioid deaths by 2016, and the highest burden was among young adults aged 24 to 35 years.

“Despite the amount of attention that has been placed on this public health issue, we are increasingly seeing this devastating impact that early loss of life from opioids is having across the US,” Dr Tara Gomes, a scientist in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St Michael’s, said.

“In the absence of a multidisciplinary approach to this issue that combines access to treatment, harm reduction and education, this crisis will impact the US for generations,” she said.

Researchers reviewed all deaths in the US 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 US 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% of all deaths in this age group were related to opioid use – up from just 4% in 2001.

Dr Gomes, who is a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluation 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 US.

“These numbers show us the dramatic impact of opioid-related harms across all demographics in the US,” Dr Gomes said.

“We know this is not an isolated public health issue – it is one that spans across North America.”

The study was published in Jama Network Open and led by St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

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