Deaths Due to Opioid Toxicity Up in U.S. During COVID-19

Years of life lost due to opioid toxicity plateaued between 2017 and 2019, then increased through 2021
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Medically Reviewed By:
Mark Arredondo, M.D.

TUESDAY, July 11, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Deaths due to opioid toxicity increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online July 7 in JAMA Network Open.

Tara Gomes, Ph.D., from St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, and colleagues characterized the societal burden of unintended opioid-related deaths in the United States. The proportion of all deaths that were attributable to unintentional opioid toxicity were examined by year and age group. In addition, the total years of life lost (YLL) due to unintentional opioid toxicity was estimated, overall, and by sex and age group.

Data were included for 422,605 unintentional deaths due to opioid toxicity between 2011 and 2021. The researchers found that there was a 289 percent increase in the number of unintentional deaths due to opioid toxicity, from 19,395 to 75,477. From 2011 to 2021, the percentage of all deaths that were attributed to opioid toxicity increased from 1.8 to 4.5 percent. By 2021, opioid toxicity was responsible for 10.2, 21.7, and 21.0 percent of deaths among those aged 15 to 19, 20 to 29, and 30 to 39 years, respectively. Over the study period, the YLL due to opioid toxicity increased 276 percent. YLL plateaued between 2017 and 2019 (7.0 and 7.2 YLL per 1,000) but then increased by 62.9 percent between 2019 and 2021, reaching 11.7 YLL per 1,000.

"The crisis of deaths due to opioid toxicity across the U.S. worsened substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic, with one in 22 deaths in 2021 attributable to unintentional opioid toxicity," the authors write

One author disclosed past employment with Sanofi Pasteur.

Abstract/Full Text

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