The U.S. drug epidemic continues its death march, with new research showing American teens and young adults have lost nearly 1.5 million years of life due to drug overdose deaths in recent years.
For the study, the researchers examined years of life lost -- the difference between a person's expected lifespan and when they actually die -- among nearly 3,300 adolescents aged 10 to 19 and nearly 21,700 young people aged 10 to 24 who died from unintentional drug overdoses between 2015 and 2019.
During this time, U.S. teens lost nearly 200,000 years of life due to drug overdoses, while young people lost more than 1.25 million years, according to the Ohio State University team.
"Adolescents and young adults dying of overdose are deprived of many years of work, community, and family life. Our study shows overdose mortality among adolescents and young people is unacceptably high," said study co-author Dr. O. Trent Hall, an addiction medicine physician in the university's department of psychiatry and behavioral health.
"Public health interventions to protect this vulnerable group are urgently needed," Hall added in a university news release.
Hall said more resources are needed to prevent unintentional drug overdose among teens and young people. "Existing public health interventions aimed at adults may be insufficient," he noted.
Most research on overdose deaths has focused on adults. The study team hopes this new report raises awareness of the increasingly dire consequences of unintentional drug overdose among a younger population.
Study co-author Dr. Julie Teater is a psychiatrist and addiction medicine physician. She said, "Our study provides important context to the overdose crisis by better representing what it means to society when we lose adolescents and young people to unintentional drug overdose."
The report was published online Jan. 31 in JAMA Pediatrics.
There's more on drug overdose at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, Jan. 31, 2022