By Kelly Young
Mortality from drug use (illicit drugs and misused medications) in the U.S. may be double previous estimates, according to a modeling study in PLoS One.
Rather than only relying on drug-coded deaths (e.g., drug poisonings and drug-coded mental disorders), the study tried to take into account excess mortality from other causes related to drug use (for example, circulatory and respiratory diseases, cancer).
Drug use was linked to 142,000 deaths among people aged 15 to 64 in 2016. This is 2.2 times the number of drug-coded deaths. Roughly 22% of all deaths among men and 16% among women were estimated to be drug-related. Nationally, the authors estimate that drug use cost men 1.4 years and women 0.7 years of life expectancy beyond age 15.
The authors conclude: “The drug epidemic is exacting a heavy cost to American lives, not only from deaths directly coded to drugs but also from excess mortality in other causes of death affected by drug use.”