Opioid Deaths Particularly High Among Young People

Tara Gomes St Michael's Hospital Toronto, ON, Canada MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Tara Gomes
St Michael’s Hospital
Toronto, ON, Canada

Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Tara Gomes: We found that rates of opioid overdose in Ontario have increased more than 3-fold over the past 2 decades. Furthermore, these deaths are clustered among younger Ontarians; in 2010, 1 in 8 deaths among those aged 25 to 34 years were related to opioids. This has led to considerable burden due to loss of life.

Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Tara Gomes: Although past research suggested that the mean age at time of opioid-overdose death was fairly low, we didn’t expect such a pronounced clustering of these deaths among those aged 25 to 44 years old. Furthermore, the substantial impact of this early loss of life was surprising. In 2010, 21,927 years of life lost were attributable to opioid-related death, which is more than that attributable to alcohol use disorders, pneumonia, or influenza.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Tara Gomes: Clinicians should carefully consider when to prescribe opioids to their patients and should avoid escalating to high dose therapy which has been shown to be associated with increased risk of opioid overdose. Furthermore, patients need to become informed about the risks of addiction and overdose when using opioids so that they can ensure that they do not accidentally misuse these drugs, which can lead to serious – and life threatening – consequences.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Tara Gomes: Since 2010, several changes have occurred in the opioid landscape. There have been new policies implemented in Ontario that attempt to address the issue of opioid misuse and abuse, as well as several new products introduced (including both a tamper deterrent formulation and a generic formulation of long-acting oxycodone). Future research should explore the potential impact of these changes on the trends observed in this study.
Citation:

Gomes, T., Mamdani, M. M., Dhalla, I. A., Cornish, S., Paterson, J. M. and Juurlink, D. N. (2014), The burden of premature opioid-related mortality. Addiction. doi: 10.1111/add.12598