US Drug Overdose Mortality Rate Outpaces Comparable Countries

A study published this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds the United States has more than double the overdose-related deaths of at least 12 comparable countries.

Nations profiled in the report, conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Md., and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that have comparable, high-quality death certificate data from 2001 through 2015. Statistics from the World Health Organization Mortality Database were used to compile annual deaths due to drug overdose. The populations studied were restricted to persons ages 20 to 64 to focus on premature mortality.

The report showed that in 2015, the U.S. had the highest drug overdose mortality rates for both men (35 deaths per 100,000) and women (20 per 100,000) among the 13 qualifying countries studied. The rates were more than twice those of any other country studied, although the researchers noted “worrisome” trends in five of 13 countries.

Although 2015 is the most recent year included in the study, drug-related overdose deaths have not slowed in the time since. The report notes that there were 63,632 such deaths in the U.S. in 2016, and NIDA estimates the 2017 total to be around 72,000.

While U.S. overdose-related deaths have continued to climb, the researchers noted declining rates in Norway, as well as among men in Spain and Danish women. The decreases were linked to the respective countries’ public health approaches, such as the introduction of supervised injection facilities.


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