Non-fatal opioid-related overdoses among adolescents in Massachusetts 2012-2014

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2019 Jan 1:194:28-31. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.09.020. Epub 2018 Oct 25.


Background: Opioid-related overdoses and deaths among adolescents in the United States continue to increase, but little is known about adolescents who experience opioid-related non-fatal overdose (NFOD). Our objective was to describe (1) the characteristics of adolescents aged 11-17 who experienced NFOD and (2) their receipt of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) in the 12 months following NFOD, compared with adults.

Methods: We created a retrospective cohort using six Massachusetts state agency datasets linked at the individual level, with information on 98% of state residents. Individuals entered the cohort if they experienced NFOD between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2014. We compared adolescents to adults experiencing NFOD, examining individual characteristics and receipt of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD)-methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone.

Results: Among 22,506 individuals who experienced NFOD during the study period, 195 (0.9%) were aged 11-17. Fifty-two percent (102/195) of adolescents were female, whereas only 38% of adults were female (P < 0.001). In the year prior to NFOD, 11% (21/195) of adolescents received a prescription opioid, compared to 43% of adults (P < 0.001), and <5% (<10/195) received any MOUD compared to 23% of adults (P < 0.001). In the 12 months after NFOD, only 8% (15/195) of adolescents received MOUD, compared to 29% of adults.

Conclusion: Among individuals experiencing NFOD, adolescents were more likely to be female and less likely to have been prescribed opioids in the year prior. Few adolescents received MOUD before or after NFOD. Non-fatal overdose is a missed opportunity for starting evidence-based treatment in adolescents.

Keywords: Adolescents; Opioid use disorder; Overdose.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Drug Overdose / diagnosis
  • Drug Overdose / epidemiology*
  • Drug Overdose / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Analgesics, Opioid