Baby boomers and millennials most harmed by opioid crisis

The nation's ongoing opioid overdose crisis is primarily affecting the baby boomer and millennial generations, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on prescription opioid and heroin overdose deaths for the years 1999 through 2014 compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics. The group found that compared with people born in the late-1970s, baby boomers — individuals born between 1947 and 1964 — were up to 27 percent more likely to die from  a prescription opioid overdose and up to one-third more likely to die from a heroin overdose.

Researchers also found millennials — individuals born 1979 and 1992 — displayed high rates of heroin overdose. For example, individuals born in 1989 and 1990 were 23 percent more likely to die of a heroin overdose compared with those born in the late 1970s.

Guohua Li, MD, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University in New York City and the senior author of the study, told HealthDay the findings regarding boomers were not surprising. The boomer population was middle-aged during the rise of prescription opioids in the 1990s, making the generation a "primary target" for the medications, according to Dr. Li.

However, Dr. Li told HealthDay the disparity in heroin overdose rates between millennials and the preceding generation — generation X — is less clear. Dr. Li speculated that the difference may have something to do with gen xers having more economic security than millennials.

"Intervention programs are needed to reduce the excess overdose mortality in these specific demographic groups," concluded Dr. Li and his colleagues. 

More articles on opioids: 
Study: Medication therapies cheaper than detox for opioid addiction treatment 
Medline creates fentanyl-resistant gloves for emergency medical workers 
Minnesota counties, cities join national surge of opioid epidemic lawsuits

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