What are the mortality rates of opioid abuse?

Updated: Jun 21, 2018
  • Author: David W Dixon, DO; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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The progression from illicitly using opioids to opioid dependence has dire consequences, including a yearly mortality rate of approximately 2%. Moreover, sustained remission from opioid dependence is difficult to achieve.

Since 1990, data from numerous US jurisdictions have reported dramatic increases in mortality related to drug poisonings. This increase has been due primarily to unintentional drug poisonings attributed either to opioid pain relievers or unspecified drugs.

  • From 1979–1990, unintentional drug poisonings increased on average 5.3% per year.

  • From 1990–2002, unintentional drug poisonings increased on average 18.1% per year. This corresponded with increased prescription of opioids for pain management

  • From 1999–2002, opioid analgesic poisonings on death certificates increased 91%. During the same period, fatal heroin and cocaine poisonings increased 12.4% and 22.8%, respectively.

  • In 2002, 5,528 deaths were reported from prescription opioid analgesic poisonings, more than either heroin or cocaine. The increase in mortality generally corresponded to increase in sales for each prescribed opioid.

  • For patients receiving opioid prescriptions, higher opioid doses were correlated with an increased risk of opioid overdose death across diagnoses and regardless of substance abuse status. [18]

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