TORONTO — The opioid epidemic in the United States has reached astounding levels over the past 15 years, and millennials are at the greatest risk. A new study finds that one in every five deaths of young adults in America is linked to opioids.
The grim report out of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto found that the percentage of deaths related to opioids in the U.S. spiked by 292% between 2001 and 2016. In 2001, 0.4% of deaths (1 in 255) were opioid related, compared to 1.5% of deaths (1 in 65) by 2016.
“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,” says lead author Dr. Tara Gomes, a scientist and researcher in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s, in a statement. “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.”
In 2016, opioids contributed to one in every 65 deaths in the U.S. overall, the study found, with men accounting for 70% of the statistics. But the demographic hit the hardest by the opioid crisis is young people. American adults aged 24 to 36 accounted for 20% of all opioid-related deaths in the U.S. in 2016, up from just four percent in 2001. Even younger Americans — those aged 15 to 24 — accounted for 12.4% of deaths that were attributable to opioids in 2016.
Dr. Gomes’ team used a database from the Centers for Disease Control to analyze all American deaths during the 15-year study period. The database contains mortality reports and population estimates throughout the U.S. sorted by age and sex.
“These numbers show us the dramatic impact of opioid-related harms across all demographics in the U.S.,” says Gomes. “We know this is not an isolated public health issue – it is one that spans across North America.”
The full study was published in the June 2018 edition of the journal JAMA Network Open.