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Majority of Opioid Overdose Deaths Among Youth Involve Multiple Substances

November 25, 2020

Opioid overdose deaths involving multiple substances among youth were found to be more common than overdose deaths involving only opioids, per the results of a study published this week by the Grayken Center at Boston Medical Center.

Findings of the study were published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Cocaine and other stimulants were the most commonly found illicit substances in opioid overdose deaths of adolescents and young adults, ages 13 to 25. The study also noted that overdose deaths rates involving stimulants among young people increased 351% between 2010 and 2018.

Grayken Center researchers studied statistics from the CDC’s Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research, including entries from 1999 to 2018 categorized as deaths of individuals ages 13 to 25 involving multiple causes. Opioid overdose deaths were then divided into subcategories based on the presence of additional substances. Among the findings, opioid-only overdose deaths increased by 384%, while polysubstance-involved opioid overdose deaths soared by 760%. In 2018, synthetic opioids were present in 73% of 4,623 opioid overdose deaths. Of those deaths, 2,476 involved multiple illicit substances. Stimulants were involved in 1,541 opioid overdose deaths.

“As providers, we need to recognize that co-occurring substance use disorders are common, and they must be addressed simultaneously when treating opioid addiction,” study corresponding author Jamie Lim, MD, a pediatrics resident at BMC and Boston Children’s Hospital, said in a news release.

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