Reducing opioid-related fatalities is still a highly important issue in the US. Last year, a study estimated that 49,000 people died in 2017. And, even though the number of deaths is starting to slow, some areas still have reduced life expectancy due to this epidemic.
Now, research from the Boston Medical Center has found the problem is still prominent, particularly with younger people. Additionally, the study found that, alarmingly, most of the reported deaths involved the user abusing more than one substance.
The researchers looked at data from the CDC into overdose deaths in young people aged 13 to 25 between 1999 and 2018. They found that deaths increased by 380% over the time period, and over half of the deaths in 2018 involved multiple substances.
According to the study, cocaine and methamphetamines are the most common substances to be combined with opioids in people under 25. To address this, the researchers say it’s essential that treatment focuses on the whole picture, rather than just opioids alone.
Researcher Dr. Scott Hadland commented, “Our study provides significant insight into what is driving opioid-related overdoses among adolescents and young adults, which can help improve treatment and outcomes in this population.”
Cocaine was found to be responsible for nearly 70% of deaths involving multiple substances in 2018. This, along with other stimulants, are believed to be partly to blame for the surge in fatalities involving multiple substances between 2010 and 2018.
Moving forward, it’s important to focus on how dangerous substance abuse has become among younger people, especially amid the opioid crisis. The researchers point out that treatment options need to be better adapted to suit the current conditions and meet young people’s needs.
Dr. Jamie Lim added, “These results emphasize that we need to be focusing on more than just opioids when treating young people with opioid use disorder. As providers, we need to recognize that co-occurring substance use disorders are common, and they must be addressed simultaneously when treating opioid addiction.”