Opioid-Related Deaths Quadrupled in Past Decade

Opioid-Related Deaths Quadrupled in Past Decade
Opioid-Related Deaths Quadrupled in Past Decade

(HealthDay News) — The number of Americans dying from accidental overdoses of opioid analgesics jumped significantly from 1999–2011, according to a September data brief published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Deaths from overdoses of drugs such as hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone climbed from 1.4 per 100,000 people to 5.4 per 100,000, according to the CDC. That means about 3,000 people died in 1999 from unintentional overdoses. By 2011, that number was up to nearly 12,000 deaths. From 2006–2011, deaths involving benzodiazepines increased an average of 14% per year, while deaths from painkillers not involving benzodiazepines did not change significantly.

The researchers also found a striking increase in the number of deaths in people aged 55–64. In 1999, the rate was one per 100,000 people. By 2011, that number had jumped to more than six per 100,000, the findings showed. There was also a dramatic rise in the number of deaths in white people from opioid use; it was 4.5 times higher in 2011 than it had been in 1999. The increase in the number of deaths from opioids doubled during the same time period for blacks, and increased just slightly for Hispanics.

Despite the rising number of deaths, the rate of the increase has actually slowed since 2006, report coauthor Holly Hedegaard, MD, an epidemiologist at the NCHS, told HealthDay. "Although the rate is still increasing, it is not increasing quite as fast as it did between 2000 and 2006," Hedegaard said. "From 1999–2006, the rate of deaths increased about 18% per year, but since 2006 it's only increasing about 3% per year." Hedegaard thinks the slowing rate might be due in part to fewer deaths from methadone and some painkillers. Deaths from these drugs have leveled off or declined, she said.

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