The burden of premature opioid-related mortality

Gomes T, Mamdani MM, Dhalla IA, Cornish S, Paterson JM, Juurlink DN. Addiction. 2014; 109(9):1482-8. Epub 2014 Jul 7.

Background and Aims — The burden of premature mortality due to opioid-related death has not been fully characterized. The researchers calculated temporal trends in the proportion of deaths attributable to opioids and estimated years of potential life lost (YLL) due to opioid-related mortality in Ontario, Canada.

Design — Cross-sectional study.

Setting — Ontario, Canada.

Participants — Individuals who died of opioid-related causes between January 1991 and December 2010.

Measurements — The researchers used the Registered Persons Database and data abstracted from the Office of the Chief Coroner to measure annual rates of opioid-related mortality. The proportion of all deaths related to opioids was determined by age group in each of 1992, 2001 and 2010. The YLL due to opioid-related mortality were estimated, applying the life expectancy estimates for the Ontario population.

Findings — The reseachers reviewed 5935 opioid-related deaths in Ontario between 1991 and 2010. The overall rate of opioid-related mortality increased by 242% between 1991 (12.2 per 1 000 000 Ontarians) and 2010 (41.6 per 1 000 000 Ontarians; P < 0.0001). Similarly, the annual YLL due to premature opioid-related death increased threefold, from 7006 years (1.3 years per 1000 population) in 1992 to 21 927 years (3.3 years per 1000 population) in 2010. The proportion of deaths attributable to opioids increased significantly over time within each age group (P < 0.05). By 2010, nearly one of every eight deaths (12.1%) among individuals aged 25–34 years was opioid-related.

Conclusions — Rates of opioid-related deaths are increasing rapidly in Ontario, Canada, and are concentrated among the young, leading to a substantial burden of disease.

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Keywords: Drugs (pain)