Trends in Drug Poisoning Deaths Among Adolescents and Young Adults in the United States, 2006-2015

J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2019 Mar;80(2):201-210. doi: 10.15288/jsad.2019.80.201.


Objective: Despite the rising toll of drug poisoning deaths in the United States, the extent of the problem among adolescents and young adults ages 15-24 years has received relatively little attention. We examined sociodemographic characteristics and state trends in drug poisoning deaths among adolescents and young adults from 2006 to 2015 and estimated the costs of drug poisoning mortality in this population.

Method: We used the National Vital Statistics System's Multiple Cause of Death files from 2006 to 2015. We analyzed trends using Joinpoint regression analysis and calculated total costs of drug poisoning deaths, including medical costs, work loss costs, and quality of life loss, based on widely used cost estimates.

Results: Drug poisoning death rates (per 100,000 population) in adolescents and young adults increased from 8.1 in 2006 to 9.7 in 2015. The rates increased significantly for Whites (1.7% per year) and Asian/Pacific Islanders (4.3% per year) from 2006 to 2015 and for Blacks (11.8% per year) from 2009 to 2015. By U.S. region, the rates increased significantly in the Midwest (4.4% per year) from 2006 to 2015 and in the Northeast (11.0% per year) from 2009 to 2015. Trends varied by age group, intent for drug poisoning, drug category (i.e., opioids, pharmaceutical drugs excluding opioids, illicit drugs excluding opioids, and unspecified drugs), urbanization level, and state. The estimated costs of drug poisoning deaths among adolescents and young adults totaled approximately $35 billion in 2015.

Conclusions: Trends in drug poisoning deaths and estimated costs inform state-specific prevention and intervention efforts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analgesics, Opioid / poisoning*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / poisoning*
  • Male
  • Poisoning / epidemiology*
  • Poisoning / mortality
  • Quality of Life
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Illicit Drugs