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Thursday, February 3, 2022

Deaths: COVID and Overdose

Jon Kamp, Jennifer Levitz, Brianna Abbott and Paul Overberg at WSJ:

Two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, America’s death toll is closing in on one million.

Federal authorities estimate that 987,456 more people have died since early 2020 than would have otherwise been expected, based on long-term trends. People killed by coronavirus infections account for the overwhelming majority of cases. Thousands more died from derivative causes, like disruptions in their healthcare and a spike in overdoses.

Covid-19 has left the same proportion of the
population dead—about 0.3%—as did World War II, and in less time.

Unlike the 1918 flu pandemic or major wars, which hit younger people, Covid-19 has been particularly hard on vulnerable seniors. It has also killed thousands of front-line workers and disproportionately affected minority populations.

It robbed society of grandparents, parents, spouses, sons and daughters, best friends, mentors, loyal employees and bosses. Those lost include a 55-year-old Rhode Island correctional officer; a 46-year-old Texas dental-office receptionist who helped care for her granddaughter; a 30-year-old Iowan who fatally overdosed; and an active 72-year-old and grandmother of 15 who was Nashville’s first female city bus driver.

“It’s catastrophic,” said Steven Woolf, director emeritus at the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University. “This is an enormous loss of life.”

O. Trent Hall and colleagues have an article at JAMA Pediatrics titled "Unintentional Drug Overdose Mortality in Years of Life Lost Among Adolescents and Young People in the US From 2015 to 2019."

 Over the 5-year period of this cross-sectional study, adolescents experienced nearly 200 000 YLL, and young people amassed greater than 1.25 million YLL [years of life lost]. Male adolescents and young people accounted for substantially greater unintentional drug overdose mortality (YLL and incident deaths) than female adolescents and young people. Although limited by death records potentially undercounting overdoses and a cross-sectional design insensitive to temporal relations between risk factors and deaths, our findings represent an unacceptable preventable mortality burden for adolescents and young people in the US. Prior research has identified polysubstance use, psychiatric comorbidity, and unstable housing as relevant risk factors for unintentional drug overdose in this age cohort.6 Our findings suggest that further resources are needed to mitigate these factors. The present study should inform future mortality reviews among adolescents and young people, as well as ecologic interventions involving family, school, and community, in unintentional drug overdose prevention and substance use treatment.