20 Percent of Young Adult Deaths Due to Opioids

 In Naturopathic News

Node Smith, ND

A recent study found that 1 out of every 5 deaths of young adults in the United States is opiate related.1 The study was published last week in JAMA Network Open, and conducted by St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, ON.

Opiate Crisis: Opiate deaths have increased in the U.S. from 2001 to 2016 by nearly 300 percent

Opiate deaths have increased in the U.S. from 2001 to 2016 by nearly 300 percent, according to the study. One in every 65 deaths was found to be opiate related in 2016. This percentage varies by age group as well as sex. Male sex accounted for almost 70 percent of all opiate deaths in 2016, with the most affected age group being those 24 to 34 years of age.

Study looked at all U.S. deaths between the years 2001 and 2016

The study looked at all U.S. deaths between the years 2001 and 2016 – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WONDER Multiple Cause of Death Online Database was utilized. The study analyzed the causes of mortality against population estimates with attention paid to age and sex. The biggest rise in illicit and prescribed opiate deaths was noted in those between the ages of 24 and 35; opiate-related deaths accounted for 20 percent of deaths in this age group. In 2001, only 4 percent of deaths among these young adults were due to opiates.

1,681,359 years of life were lost

In 2016 alone, an estimated 1,681,359 years of life were lost early due to opiates. This is more years of life lost than for hypertension, HIV/AIDS and pneumonia.

Lead researcher laments, “this crisis will impact the U.S. for generations”

Dr. Tara Gomes, lead researcher on this study, comments that “[d]espite the amount of attention that has been placed on this public health issue, we are increasingly seeing the devastating impact that early loss of life from opioids is having across the United States. In the absence of a multidisciplinary approach to this issue that combines access to treatment, harm reduction and education, this crisis will impact the U.S. for generations.”


  1. Gomes T, Tadrous M, Mamdani, MM, et al. The Burden of Opioid-Related Mortality in the United States. JAMA Network Open. 2018;1(2):e180217. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0217
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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