Bottom Line: This observational study estimated the rate of opioid overdose deaths among Medicare enrollees younger than 65 who qualified for Medicare because of a disability. The study included more than 1.7 million of these enrollees in 2016 and 1,371 opioid overdose deaths. Researchers report those enrollees represented 14.9% of the Medicare population but they accounted for almost 81% of all opioid overdose deaths among all Medicare enrollees. The rate of opioid overdose deaths in this population increased from 57.4 per 100,000 in 2012 to 77.6 per 100,000 in 2016, and was greater among people with psychiatric diseases (such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder), substance use disorder (tobacco, alcohol or drug use) and chronic pain. Adults who had all three of these conditions had higher rate of opioid overdose death than those with none of the conditions. Limitations of the study include variations in the quality and accuracy of death certificate data associated with overdose.
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Authors: Yong-Fang Kuo, Ph.D., of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and coauthors.
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