*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.
The cost of America’s opioid epidemic just keeps rising, with new research showing that overdose deaths among teens and young adults are soaring.
The death rate from drug overdoses rose from eight in every 100,000 people aged 15 to 24 in 2006 to nearly 10 per 100,000 in 2015, researchers found.
“Drug poisoning deaths affect families, communities and society at large,” said lead researcher Bina Ali, an associate research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, in Beltsville, Md.
Among those aged 15 to 24, death rates from prescription painkillers and opioids including heroin increased nearly 5% on average each year from 2006 to 2015, but jumped by more than 15% each year from 2013 to 2015, Ali noted.
This increase reflects the ease with which teens and young adults can get prescription opioids and illegal drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Once hooked on prescription drugs like Vicodin or OxyContin, it’s a small step to move on to illicit drugs as prescription opioids become harder to get, the study authors explained.
When young people switch to heroin, which is often laced with other dangerously powerful drugs such as the synthetic opioid fentanyl, the odds of an unintentional overdose rise sharply. And because these drug combinations are so potent, they increase the risk of dying.
“The findings of this study are heartbreaking, yet not surprising,” said Lindsey Vuolo, director of health law and policy at the Center on Addiction, in New York City.
“The opioid crisis has claimed the lives of too many young people, and we need to be doing much more to protect adolescents and young adults from a disease that is preventable and treatable,” Vuolo said.
For the study, Ali and her colleagues analyzed mortality data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics from 2006 through 2015.
The findings showed that drug-related death rates were higher for whites (nearly 12 for every 100,000) and for American Indian/Alaska Natives (10 per 100,000), compared with blacks (three per 100,000), Asian/Pacific Islanders (two per 100,000) and Hispanics (four per 100,000).
Overdose death rates also varied by state. For example, the rate in West Virginia was about five times higher than the rate in Nebraska (15 versus three per 100,000 people).
The largest increase in death rates was in New York, which saw increases of 9% a year. Death rates in Ohio, Massachusetts and New Jersey were also in this range, according to the report.
The report was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.