The US leads developed nations in premature deaths from drug overdose

Originally Published By 2 Minute Medicine®. Reused on MPR with permission.

1. Of the 13 counties included in this study, the U.S. had the highest number of premature deaths from drug overdose in both men and women.

2. The authors observed declining premature drug-overdose mortality rates among men and women in Norway, in addition to men in Spain and women in Denmark.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Study Rundown: Studies suggest that high-income countries have had an increase in deaths due to drug-related overdoses. In the U.S. alone, the rates have more than doubled over the 21st century. The authors of this study aimed to compare the trends in premature mortality rates due to drug overdose. Generally, they observed that the U.S. leads developed nations in premature deaths from drug overdose. One limitation of this study was that the coding process of cause of death between countries likely differed, despite the study being restricted to countries with high-quality data. The authors further acknowledged that they were unable to assess contributions of specific drugs to mortality rates.

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Click to read the study in Annals of Internal Medicine

Relevant Reading: Drug Overdose Deaths: Let's Get Specific

In-Depth [brief research report]: The authors of this study utilized the World Health Organization Mortality Database to collect data regarding premature mortality rates due to drug overdose. The study was restricted to assessing countries with high-quality data and evaluating patients aged 20-64 years of age. A total of 13 countries were ultimately included in the study. The authors found that the U.S. had the highest drug overdose mortality rates for both men and women of all the countries included in this study (35 deaths per 100 000 men and 20 deaths per 1000 000 women). Mexico had the lowest drug overdose mortality rate of the study, with 1 death per 100 000 men and 0.2 deaths per 100 000 women. The authors observed that, in general, mortality rates were highest for men aged 35 to 49 years and women aged 50 to 64 years. 

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