WEDNESDAY, Jan. 22, 2020 (HealthDay News) — The impact of drug use in the United States is likely to be higher than estimated, with drug-associated mortality higher than drug-coded deaths alone, according to a study published online Jan. 15 in PLOS ONE.

Dana A. Glei, Ph.D., from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and Samuel H. Preston, Ph.D., from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, used annual death rates for 1999 to 2016 to model the association between drug-coded mortality and mortality from other causes for U.S. residents aged 15 to 64 years.

The researchers found that the estimated number of drug-associated deaths was 2.2 times the number of drug-coded deaths in 2016 (141,695 versus 63,000). Adverse trends in midlife mortality since 2010 were mainly due to drug-associated mortality. The probability of dying between ages 15 and 65 years would have continued to decline after 2010 among men and would have remained low among women (15 and 10 percent, respectively) in the absence of drug use. Because of drug use, an additional 3.9 percent of men and 1.8 percent of women aged 15 to 65 years died in 2016. Drug use was estimated to cost 1.4 and 0.7 years for men and women, respectively, in terms of life expectancy beyond age 15 years.

“The drug epidemic is exacting a heavy cost to American lives, not only from deaths directly coded to drugs but also from excess mortality in other causes of death affected by drug use,” the authors write.

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