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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Drug Overdoses on Rise Worldwide, Warrant More Study

Deaths from prescription opioid use have climbed worldwide in the past several years, while deaths from illicit drug use have declined, but research to understand the distinct determinants of overdose is lacking, according to a study co-authored by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health and co-authored by BUSPH Dean Dr. Sandro Galea, reviewed articles published between 1980 and 2013 that dealt with unintentional overdoses in an effort to document the global prevalence, trends, mortality rates, and correlates of overdoses.

While the research team found wide variability in mortality rates attributable to overdose, most studies on longitudinal trends of deaths or overdose-related hospitalizations showed increases over time. For example, there was a 467.7 percent increase reported in methadone deaths in the US between 1999 and 2005, and a 1,186 percent increase in heroin deaths in England and Wales from 1974 to 1992.

Dr. Galea and colleagues said there is a need to invest in research to understand environmental and other determinants of drug overdose worldwide.

“A combination of studies on individuals who overdose and the settings where overdoses occur will help us better tailor interventions to the types of strategies that are most likely to have a major impact on this epidemic,” they wrote.

To read more about the study, go to: