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Science. 2018 Sep 21;361(6408). pii: eaau1184. doi: 10.1126/science.aau1184.

Changing dynamics of the drug overdose epidemic in the United States from 1979 through 2016.

Author information

1
Department of Health Policy and Management, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
2
Department of Biostatistics, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
3
Department of Preventive Medicine (Biostatistics), Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA.
4
Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA.
5
Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. donburke@pitt.edu.

Abstract

Better understanding of the dynamics of the current U.S. overdose epidemic may aid in the development of more effective prevention and control strategies. We analyzed records of 599,255 deaths from 1979 through 2016 from the National Vital Statistics System in which accidental drug poisoning was identified as the main cause of death. By examining all available data on accidental poisoning deaths back to 1979 and showing that the overall 38-year curve is exponential, we provide evidence that the current wave of opioid overdose deaths (due to prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl) may just be the latest manifestation of a more fundamental longer-term process. The 38+ year smooth exponential curve of total U.S. annual accidental drug poisoning deaths is a composite of multiple distinctive subepidemics of different drugs (primarily prescription opioids, heroin, methadone, synthetic opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine), each with its own specific demographic and geographic characteristics.

PMID:
30237320
DOI:
10.1126/science.aau1184

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