Bottom Line: Identifying changes in the geographic distribution of opioid-related deaths is important, and this study analyzed data for more than 351,000 U.S. residents who died of opioid-related causes from 1999 to 2016. Researchers report increased rates of opioid-related deaths in the eastern United States, especially from synthetic opioids. In 2016, there were 42,249 opioid-related deaths (28,498 men and 13,751 women) in the United States for an opioid-related mortality rate of 13 per 100,000 people. Eight states (Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire and Ohio) had opioid-related mortality rates that were at least doubling every three years, and two states (Florida and Pennsylvania) and the District of Columbia had opioid-related mortality rates that were at least doubling every two years. A limitation of the study is the potential for misclassification of deaths, which could result in an underreporting of opioid-related deaths. The study findings suggest policies focused on reducing opioid-related deaths may need to prioritize synthetic opioids.
Authors: Mathew V. Kiang, Sc.D., Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California, and coauthors
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