Study: Opioid overdose deaths involving other substances more common in youth

November 23, 2020

Boston - Results of a new study show that opioid overdose deaths involving more than one substance (polysubstances) are more common than opioid-only overdose deaths among youth. Led by researchers at Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction, the data shows that cocaine and other stimulants like crystal methamphetamine are the substances most commonly involved in opioid overdose deaths in young people between the ages of 13 and 25. The study also provides novel data about opioid overdose deaths involving stimulants in young people, as those rates increased 351 percent between 2010 and 2018. Published in JAMA Pediatrics, the study emphasizes that in order to address the national overdose crisis, special attention must be paid to adolescents and young adults, and cannot focus solely on opioids.

A study published in 2018 found that 8,986 adolescents and young adults died from opioid poisoning between 1999 and 2016, and the mortality rate increased 268 percent during that time. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an increase in opioid overdose deaths involving other substances in adults, including cocaine and methamphetamine, between 1999 and 2018.

"Our study provides significant insight into what is driving opioid-related overdoses among adolescents and young adults, which can help improve treatment and outcomes in this population," said Scott Hadland, MD, pediatrician and addiction specialist at Boston Medical Center who serves as the study's senior author. Hadland is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine.

Researchers utilized cross-sectional data from the CDC's Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research. They included entries categorized as deaths involving multiple causes, and identified deaths involving opioids such as fentanyl, heroin, and prescription pills for the period between January 1999 and December 2018 in youth aged 13 to 25 years. Opioid overdose death data were captured and further broken down by the presence of other substances, including benzodiazepines, alcohol, antidepressants, cannabis, antipsychotics, barbiturates, cocaine and other psychostimulants. Data involving sex, age, race/ethnicity and census region were also analyzed.

The rates of opioid-only and polysubstance-involved opioid overdose deaths increased dramatically during the study period, by 384 and 760 percent, respectively. In 2018, there were 4,623 opioid overdose deaths among youth, and synthetic opioids were most commonly involved (73 percent). Of those deaths, more than half (2,476) involved multiple substances, meaning that overdoses deaths involving more than just opioids were more common than those involving opioids alone. Stimulants, mainly cocaine, contributed to 1,541 opioid overdose deaths, which represented more than 33 percent of total overdoses and 66 percent of the polysubstance overdose deaths in 2018.

"These results emphasize that we need to be focusing on more than just opioids when treating young people with opioid use disorder," said Jamie Lim, MD, a pediatrics resident at BMC and Boston Children's Hospital, who is the study's corresponding author. "As providers, we need to recognize that co-occurring substance use disorders are common, and they must be addressed simultaneously when treating opioid addiction."
-end-
This study was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse and by a Thrasher Early Career Award.

About Boston Medical Center

Boston Medical Center (BMC) is a private, not-for-profit, 514-bed, academic medical center that is the primary teaching affiliate of Boston University School of Medicine. It is the largest and busiest provider of trauma and emergency services in New England. BMC offers specialized care for complex health problems and is a leading research institution, receiving more than $166 million in sponsored research funding in fiscal year 2019. It is the 13th largest funding recipient in the U.S. from the National Institutes of Health among independent hospitals. In 1997, BMC founded Boston Medical Center Health Plan, Inc., now one of the top ranked Medicaid MCOs in the country, as a non-profit managed care organization. Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine are partners in Boston HealthNet - 12 community health centers focused on providing exceptional health care to residents of Boston. For more information, please visit http://www.bmc.org.

Boston Medical Center

Related Cocaine Articles from Brightsurf:

Sleep-deprived mice find cocaine more rewarding
Sleep deprivation may pave the way to cocaine addiction. Too-little sleep can increase the rewarding properties of cocaine, according to new research in mice published in eNeuro.

Nucleus accumbens recruited by cocaine, sugar are different
In a study using genetically modified mice, a University of Wyoming faculty member found that the nucleus accumbens recruited by cocaine use are largely distinct from nucleus accumbens recruited by sucrose, or table sugar.

Astrocytes build synapses after cocaine use in mice
Drugs of abuse, like cocaine, are so addictive due in part to their cellular interaction, creating strong cellular memories in the brain that promote compulsive behaviors.

Of all professions, construction workers most likely to use opioids and cocaine
Construction workers are more likely to use drugs than workers in other professions, finds a study by the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU College of Global Public Health.

Chronic cocaine use modifies gene expression
Chronic cocaine use changes gene expression in the hippocampus, according to research in mice recently published in JNeurosci.

Blocking dopamine weakens effects of cocaine
Blocking dopamine receptors in different regions of the amygdala reduces drug seeking and taking behavior with varying longevity, according to research in rats published in eNeuro.

Born to run: just not on cocaine
A study finds a surprising response to cocaine in a novel strain of mutant mice -- they failed to show hyperactivity seen in normal mice when given cocaine and didn't run around.

Cocaine adulterant may cause brain damage
People who regularly take cocaine cut with the animal anti-worming agent levamisole demonstrate impaired cognitive performance and a thinned prefrontal cortex.

Setting affects pleasure of heroin and cocaine
Drug users show substance-specific differences in the rewarding effects of heroin versus cocaine depending on where they use the drugs, according to a study published in JNeurosci.

One in 10 people have traces of cocaine or heroin on their fingerprints
Scientists have found that drugs are now so prevalent that 13 percent of those taking part in a test were found to have traces of class A drugs on their fingerprints -- despite never using them.

Read More: Cocaine News and Cocaine Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.