Overdose Death Rate Higher In The U.S. Than Other Affluent Countries

“For over a decade now, the U.S. has had the highest drug overdose mortality among its peer countries,” says USC sociologist, Jessica Ho.

Overdose Death Rate Higher in USA

The United States of America is in the middle of an overwhelming drug overdose crisis, which is predominantly led by the deaths caused by an opioid overdose.

According to new research by the University of Southern California, the higher overdose death rate highlights how historically dreadful the situation is. It has been found that the drug overdose mortality in the U.S. has increased than other affluent nations. Experts claim that the annual death rate caused by drug overdose in the U.S. is now almost 30 times higher than countries like Italy and Japan.

Jessica Ho, the sociologist at the University of Southern California, compared the overdose death trends with 18 affluent countries over a period of 20 years starting from 1994.

Throughout the 1990s, Jessica found that the drug overdose death rate in the U.S. was in the middle of the pack, while the death rates in Sweden and Finland were slightly increased than the rest.

However, by 2000, especially after the availability of a powerful painkiller called oxycodone (OxyContin), the rate started climbing steadily. And by 2003, the death rate in men was the highest when compared with other countries, Furthermore, by 2005, the rate increased in women as well. Since then, the U.S. has been on the top of the list.

The sociologist wrote, “The United States is experiencing a drug overdose epidemic of unprecedented magnitude, not only judging by its own history but also compared to the experiences of other high‐income countries. For over a decade now, the U.S. has had the highest drug overdose mortality among its peer countries.”

According to Ho, in 2013, the overdose mortality rate in the U.S. was 3.5 times higher than the other wealthy countries. She says that her study is the first one to compare such a sweeping difference in drug overdose death rate between the U.S. and other countries.

She also found that this crisis is responsible for a huge life expectancy gap between America and other countries. For some time now, the U.S. has been dragged down a bit when it comes to life expectancy. The drug overdose deaths have been commonly seen among the young and middle-aged.

She wrote, “While drug overdose alone does not account for the poor and deteriorating U.S. performance relative to other high‐income countries, it is an important contributor to recent increases in the U.S. life expectancy shortfall.”

In 2014, nearly 47,000 people died of a drug overdose in the U.S. By 2017, the number increased to more than 70,000; amongst them, 40,000 deaths were caused by an opioid overdose.

Ho explained that this steep rise is due to the availability of synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl, which are highly potent and sometimes even used for recreational purpose.

While other countries have strictly restricted the use of opioid painkillers, the neighboring country Canada has experienced a smaller version of the drug overdose death rate crisis.

In general, the pharmaceutical industry has been trying to expand its business to relatively poorer countries where access to prescription painkillers has been quite low. For instance, Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, has been running the same sort of campaign it used in the U.S. to promote its drug in poorer countries. Jessica warned that if OxyContin has been made available on a larger scale, including in the low-income countries, it would pose a major threat. She explained that there is a strong possibility of drug overdose epidemics in poorer countries as well, making things worse.