Drug overdoses triple among older adults, CDC finds

Rates of death from drug overdoses among seniors has more than tripled in the past two decades, the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics found.

Although drug overdose death rates are lower for older adults than other age groups, the rate has been climbing, according to a November report. In 2000, the rate was 2.4 per 100,000 people ages 65 and older. In 2020, the rate increased to 8.8 per 100,000.

The rate of alcohol-induced deaths also rose by 18 percent between 2019 and 2020, according to a separate November report from the CDC.

"As we get older, the way that we metabolize drugs changes, and as a consequence, the effects of alcohol differ as we age," Peter Hendricks, PhD, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health Department of Health Behavior, told CNN. "For many people, what may have been a reasonable or moderate degree of alcohol consumption at some point in the past is now enough to result in significant intoxication or inebriation."

Here are six other key findings from the two reports:

  1. From 2019 to 2020, death rates from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl increased 53 percent among older adults.

  2. Between 2000 and 2020, drug overdose deaths rose from 2.7 to 12.3 deaths per 100,000 for men compared with 2.3 to 5.8 per 100,000 for women.

  3. Between 2019 and 2020, non-Hispanic Black men 65 and older had higher drug overdose death rates than white and Hispanic men.

  4. Black women ages 65 to 74 had the highest drug overdose death rates, but among women 75 and older, white women had the highest.

  5. Men had higher rates of alcohol-induced deaths. Between 2019 and 2020, among men ages 65 to 74, the rate increased from 36.5 to 43.4 per 100,000, and for men 75 and older, rates increased from 19.8 to 21.5 per 100,000.

  6. For women, alcohol-induced death rates increased from 10.2 to 12.9 per 100,000 for those ages 65 to 74 and from 4.4 to 5.3 per 100,000 for those 75 and older.

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