Estimating Prescription Painkiller Mortality in the United States

Chris Tencza, University of Pennsylvania

Prescription painkiller abuse has emerged as an epidemic responsible for an increasing amount of premature mortality. Unfortunately, the majority of our estimates of prescription painkiller mortality are either unreliable or only look at directly attributable causes of death like overdoses. These are likely underestimates as painkillers can also cause liver failure and result in various injuries. This study uses prescription painkiller overdoses as an indicator of the damage done by painkiller abuse and models the relationship between prescription painkiller overdoses and all other deaths to estimate the effect of prescription painkiller abuse on mortality for all causes. I find that by taking into account all causes of death, our estimates of prescription painkiller deaths increase by 44% in men and 55% in women. These deaths account for 9% of all deaths for ages 20-60. I also provide estimates by state, year, and age.

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 Presented in Session P5. Adult Health and Mortality