One out of every five deaths among young adults ages 24 to 35 in the United States is related to opioids, with men representing nearly 70 percent of these deaths, according to a new study led by Canadian researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. The study expands on research in Canadian populations.
The researchers calculated that the years of life lost prematurely to opioids in 2016 exceeded those lost each year to hypertension, HIV/AIDS and pneumonia in the U.S.
“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.”
The findings, recently published in the journal JAMA Network Open, show that the percentage of opioid deaths in the U.S. increased nearly 300 percent from 2001 to 2016, with one in every 65 deaths related to opioid use by 2016.
This figure varied significantly by age and gender, however. The study found that men represented nearly 70 percent of all opioid deaths by 2016, and the highest burden was among young adults aged 24 to 35 years.
The researchers looked at 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 database captures death and population estimates across the U.S. by age and gender.
The most dramatic increase in both illegal and prescribed opioid-related deaths was seen in those aged 24 to 35. By 2016, 20 percent of all deaths in this age group were related to opioid use, up from only 4 percent in 2001.
Gomes, who is also a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Ontario, and her research 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 opioid-related harms across all demographics in the U.S.,” said Gomes. “We know this is not an isolated public health issue — it is one that spans across North America.”
This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and supported by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.
Source: St. Michael’s Hospital