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article imageOntario Study: Opiates kills 1 in 8 young adults

By George McGinn     Jul 7, 2014 in Health
A Canadian study led by Toronto-based scientist Tara Gomes reports that the increased use of opiate pain medications is responsible for 1 out of 8 deaths among young people in 2010.
The report, "The burden of premature opioid-related mortality," reported that the deaths of some 5,935 young adults aged 25-34 is also effecting Ontario's economy by depriving the territory of almost 22,000 years of potential life loss (YLL). The median age reported was 42 years old.
The study used the Registered Persons Database and data extracted from the Office of the Chief Coroner to find all deaths caused by overdose from prescription opiates between 1991 and 2010.
The other criteria used in deciding which deaths to use required that the death be sudden and the coroner's toxicology reports show levels of opiates high enough to cause death.
The study excluded heroin, including only prescription opioids like oxycodone, morphine (OxyContin and OxyNeo), fentanyl, hydromorphone (Dilaudid).
"I think that every doctor who contemplates starting a patient on an opioid for chronic pain should look at that figure and realize that they are playing with fire,” said senior author Dr. David Juurlink, a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto and head of the division of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
According to the report, for the first 10 years (1991-2000) the number of drug-related deaths remained steady at about 15 per 1,000,000 per capita. Deaths climbed dramatically reaching 45 per 1,000,000 per capita, or 1 in 170 deaths.
The report stated that worldwide, 3.6 million years of life lost were reported worldwide in 2010.
Addiction published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. on behalf of Society for the Study of Addiction
Researchers in the report included results from the United States, which where strikingly similar to Canada. The U.S. reported a 1 in 8 deaths of people 24 to 35 related to opioid overdose, and resulted in close to half a million YLL.
"The finding that one in eight deaths among young adults were attributable to opioids underlines the urgent need for a change in perception regarding the safety of these medications," stated the report.
"These are risky medications," said Gomes. "They can be effective but you need to use them appropriately. You should not be sharing them with friends and you should be protecting them in your household to make sure that they're not falling into the hands of youth or other individuals who might inadvertently end up overdosing."
Note: The writer of this report worked from the actual report sent by Geoff Koehler, Media Relations Adviser at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. No link exists to the actual report. A PDF copy is available.
More about opioid, Opioid Abuse, opioid deaths, Oxycontin, Morphine
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