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Nearly 4 in 10 Americans Know Someone Who's Died From Drug Overdose
  • Posted February 22, 2024

Nearly 4 in 10 Americans Know Someone Who's Died From Drug Overdose

More than two in every five Americans know someone who's died from a drug overdose, a new study shows.

The study highlights the heavy toll that the U.S. opioid epidemic has taken on the nation, researchers say.

“The experiences and needs of millions of survivors of an overdose loss largely have been overlooked in the clinical and public health response to the nation's overdose crisis,” said lead researcher Alison Athey, a behavioral scientist at RAND Corp., a nonprofit research organization.

“Our findings emphasize the need for research into the prevalence and impact of overdose loss, particularly among groups and communities that experience disproportionate rates of loss,” Athey added in a RAND news release.

More than 109,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2022, placing the national total since 2000 at more than 1.1 million overdose deaths, researchers said in background notes.

But little research has explored the experiences of those left behind by fatal drug OD's, researchers said.

For the study, RAND researchers turned to just over 2,000 adults participating in the RAND American Life Panel, a nationally representative group of people regularly surveyed online.

More than 42% of the participants reported personally knowing at least one person who's died from an overdose, results show.

That suggests 125 million Americans have experienced such a loss, researchers said.

Further, about one-third of those who'd lost someone to overdose said their lives were disrupted by the death, results show.

People were more likely to have known an OD victim if they lived in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont) and in the East South Central region (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee) than in other parts of the nation, researchers found.

Women, married people, U.S. natives and urban dwellers all were more likely to know a person who'd died from an OD, results show.

The new study was published Feb. 21 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers compared the aftereffects of a drug OD death to the psychological distress caused by having someone in your life die by suicide.

“It is likely that a similar continuum of survivorship exists among overdose loss survivors,” they said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about the opioid overdose epidemic.

SOURCE: RAND Corp., news release, Feb. 21, 2024

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