OSU study finds young people lost more than 1.25 million years of life due to drug overdoses
The COVID pandemic has masked another health crisis—the opioid epidemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, record numbers of Americans have died from drug overdoses—more than 100,000 in the 12-month period ending last April.
Most of them were people aged 25 to 55, but overdoses are increasingly impacting young people.
For the first time, researchers at OSU’s Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine have added up the deaths of young people in terms of years of life lost.
The study’s findings were published online in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
“When someone dies so young, they're losing more years of family, community and economic participation, and their deaths are really felt for a long time for their families and communities. And so just a single count of how many people have died, doesn't really reflect what we've lost when we lose a young person,” said Dr. O. Trent Hall, first author of the study and an addiction medicine physician in Ohio State’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health.
This study looked at 3,296 adolescents ages 10-19 and 21,689 young people ages 10-24 who lost their lives from unintentional drug overdose from 2015-2019.
During this time, adolescents lost nearly 200,000 years of life due to unintentional drug overdoses, while young people amassed more than 1.25 million years of lost life from overdoses.
"We hope that other researchers will start to separate out adolescents and young people when they're studying overdose mortality in general. It is more common for these deaths to get sort of buried in larger reports because overdose tends to affect older individuals more than adolescents and young people. And so we feel that because addiction is a chronic health condition that often begins in adolescents, adolescents and young people represent a particularly vulnerable population that deserves specific study," said Hall.