Updated Feb 6, 2022 - Health

Over 1 million years of life lost to drug overdoses

Years of life lost due to drug overdose<br/> for <span style="background: #01C46B; padding: 5px; color: white;">males</span> and <span style="background: #835BFF; padding: 5px; color: white;">females</span>
Data: Hall et. al, JAMA 2020; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Adolescents and young adults lost an estimated 1.2 million years of life due to unintentional drug overdoses over five years, according to a study published in JAMA.

What they found: About 3,300 adolescents ages 10–19 years old died of an unintentional drug overdose in the U.S. between 2015 and 2019, representing about 187,078 years of life lost, researchers from Ohio State University said.

  • That number rises to nearly 22,o0o young people when expanding the age group to overdose deaths among those among 10–24 years old. Males collectively lost more years of life, the researchers said.

Why it matters: While previous reports have focused on adults, this specifically looks at the impact of unintentional deaths among young Americans. It's particularly alarming when considering the record numbers of overdose deaths reported since the conclusion of the study.

  • Years of life lost, as the authors point out, offers "important context to the overdose crisis by better representing what is meant to society by the loss of adolescents and young people."

Editor's note: The story originally published on Feb. 1.

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