Three Groups Faced the Highest Overdose Increases in 2020

[FUTURITY] Men, people who had lost jobs, and people with mental health diagnoses experienced the largest increases in rates of overdose deaths during the pandemic, according to a new study led by Alexandria Macmadu, a PhD candidate in epidemiology. Researchers also found increases in deaths involving synthetic opioids and in deaths occurring in personal residences (compared to a hospital or elsewhere).

The findings about the causes and characteristics of overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic may be used to inform policies that could lower death rates even after COVID-19 is under control. 

At the same time that COVID-19 has claimed more than 600,000 lives across the United States, drug overdose deaths across the nation reached unprecedented heights. Researchers at Brown University’s School of Public Health wanted to learn more about the causes of the overdoses during the pandemic, as well as the people affected by them, as scant data were available. They analyzed two years of health data to look for trends and patterns.

“Our motivation for this study was to understand more about the causes and characteristics of these overdose deaths and to identify some of the groups of people who are at heightened risk of overdose during the pandemic,” says coauthor Alexandria Macmadu, a PhD candidate in epidemiology at Brown.

The study appears in JAMA Network Open.

The team analyzed information from four statewide databases linked via the Rhode Island Data Ecosystem. The state has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic: In December 2020, Rhode Island had the highest rate in the country of COVID-19 cases an d deaths relevant to population; during the first eight months of 2020, the rate of unintentional drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island increased 28% relative to the same period in the prior year. KEEP READING