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US Tops Opioids Deaths Among 13 High Income Countries

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
"Drug Addiction" by Joana Faria is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0Yingxi (Cimo) Chen, MD, MPH, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
Radiation Epidemiology Branch, DCEG, NCI, NIH
Rockville MD 20850 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Death rates from drug overdose have more than doubled in the US in the 21st century. Similar increases in drug overdose deaths have been reported in other high-income countries but few studies have compared rates across countries. 

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? 

  • During 2001-2015, drug overdose death rates increased in 5 of the 13 countries and decreased in 4 of them.
  • Of these 13 countries, the US had the highest death rate due to drug overdoses for both men and women in 2015, more than double those of any other country in our study.
  • Between 2001–2015, the US had the second highest annual increases in drug overdose death rates, following Estonia.
  • Despite large increases of drug overdose deaths in the US and several other OECD countries, we also found declining trends in several countries such as Norway, Spain and Denmark. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Despite large increases of drug overdose deaths in the US and several other OECD countries, we found declining rates in Norway, Spain and Denmark. Public health officials may examine these countries as an example of effective programs for risk reduction and prevention. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Detailed evaluations and implementation studies of the policies and public health initiatives of countries with declining rates may help identify approaches that can be applied elsewhere to prevent further drug overdose deaths.


Chen Y, Shiels MS, Thomas D, Freedman ND, de González AB. Premature Mortality From Drug Overdoses: A Comparative Analysis of 13 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Member Countries With High-Quality Death Certificate Data, 2001 to 2015. Ann Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print ] doi: 10.7326/M18-2415

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Last Updated on November 14, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD