FRIDAY, Feb. 22, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Since the early 2000s, the United States has had the highest drug overdose death rates among its peer countries, according to a study published online Feb. 21 in the Population and Development Review.

Jessica Y. Ho, Ph.D., from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, used data from the Human Mortality Database and the World Health Organization Mortality Database for 18 countries to produce country-, year-, sex-, and age-specific drug overdose death rates between 1994 and 2015.

Ho found that the United States was not an outlier in terms of drug overdose mortality before the early 2000s. However, in each year since 2002 for men and since 2005 for women, the United States has posted the highest drug overdose death rates among the set of countries examined. Based on the two most recent years for which data are available, drug overdose mortality seems to be trending upward for men in 11 out of 18 countries and trending downward for women. The drug overdose mortality was 3.5 times higher on average in the United States than its peer countries (range, 1.6 to 28 times higher).

“One of the most surprising findings from this study is that while Americans now have the highest drug overdose death rates, this hasn’t always been the case,” Ho said in a statement. “We’ve seen huge shifts in drug overdose, and we need to pay attention to the factors that contribute to the development and continued persistence of this epidemic.”

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