Study finds one out of eight deaths among young adults is related to opioid use

July 7, 2014 Toronto

Rates of opioid-related death increased dramatically in Ontario between 1991 and 2010, rising from 12.2 deaths per million in 1991 (127 deaths annually) to 41.6 deaths per million in 2010 (550 deaths annually) – an increase of 242 per cent - according to a study by researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and St. Michael’s Hospital.

“Alarmingly, we found that approximately one of every 170 deaths in Ontario may be related to opioid overdose. Furthermore, this burden is heavily weighted towards younger Ontarians. Among young adults aged 25 to 34, one of every eight deaths is related to opioids,” said lead author Tara Gomes, a scientist at ICES and a Principal Investigator of the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network (ODPRN).

Opioids include strong painkillers like morphine, codeine and oxycodone.

The study, published today in Addiction, found opioid-related deaths to be a leading cause of premature death, resulting in 21,927 years of potential life lost annually, exceeding that due to alcohol use disorders, pneumonia, HIV/AIDS and influenza.

In the study, researchers reviewed 5,935 opioid-related deaths in Ontario between 1991 and 2010 and found:

  • Rates of opioid-related death increased dramatically between 1991 and 2010, rising 242 per cent from 12.2 deaths per million in 1991 (127 deaths annually) to 41.6 deaths per million in 2010 (550 deaths annually).              
  • Approximately 1 of every 170 deaths in Ontario is now related to opioid use. Among young adults aged 25 to 34, 1 of every 8 deaths is related to opioids.
  • Opioid-related deaths result in 21,927 years of potential life lost annually, exceeding that due to alcohol use disorders, pneumonia, HIV/AIDS and influenza.

“The extraordinary toll of premature mortality related to opioids reflects in part, the disproportionate number of these deaths among younger individuals, and highlights the public health and societal burden of opioid overdose,” added Gomes also a scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital.

Authors: Tara Gomes, Muhammad M Mamdani, Irfan A Dhalla, Stephen Cornish, J Michael Paterson and David N Juurlink.

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.

For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario

The Ontario Drug Policy Research Network (ODPRN) is an independent, province-wide network of researchers who provide timely, high quality, drug policy relevant research to decision makers in Ontario.

For the latest news from the ODPRN, follow us on Twitter: @ODPRN_Research

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

  • Geoff Koehler
  • Media Relations Adviser
  • St. Michael’s Hospital koehlerg@smh.ca 416-864-6060, ext. 6537

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