According to a new study led by researchers in Canada, one out of every five deaths among young adults in the U.S. is related to opioids and the percentage of those deaths increased by 292 percent from 2001 to 2016.

The study broke it down this way:

  • one in every 65 deaths was related to opioid use
  • that number varied by age group and sex
  • men represented nearly 70 percent of all opioid deaths by 2016
  • the highest burden was among young adults aged 24 to 35 years

The study was published in JAMA Network Open.


Dr. Tara Gomes, a scientist in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s said,

“Despite the amount of attention that has been placed on this public health issue, we are increasingly seeing the devastating impact that early loss of life from opioids is having across the United States. In the absence of a multidisciplinary approach to this issue that combines access to treatment, harm reduction and education, this crisis will impact the U.S. for generations.”1


The team of researchers reviewed all deaths in the U.S. between 2001 and 2016 using the CDC’s WONDER Multiple Cause of Death Online Database which captures “mortality and population estimates across the U.S. by age and sex.”2 They found that the most dramatic increase in illegal and legally prescribed opioid-related deaths was seen in young adults aged 24 to 35. And by 2016, 20 percent of all deaths in this age group were related to opioid use. In 2001, that number was only 4 percent.


Dr. Gomes and her team found that a total of 1,681,359 years of life were lost prematurely to opioid-related causes in 2016, further proving that the opioid crisis is “not an isolated public health issue.” 3

Sources and References

  1. Medical Xpress, June 1, 2018.
  2. Medical Xpress, June 1, 2018.
  3. Medical Xpress, June 1, 2018.