Rising overdose rates among older adults: CDC report highlights alarming trends

While the overall drug overdose rate remained relatively stable from 2021 to 2022, there was a significant increase in deaths among middle-aged and older adults, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The largest percentage increase in overdose deaths was observed among adults aged 65 and older, with a 10% rise from 2021 to 2022. However, the highest overdose rates were recorded among adults aged 35-44, with 62 deaths per 100,000 people. Conversely, rates decreased among those aged 15-34.

The report follows a study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2023, finding that drug overdose deaths among adults aged 65 and older have quadrupled over the last two decades. The research analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2002 to 2021, revealing a significant increase in drug-related deaths from 1,060 in 2002 (3 per 100,000) to 6,702 (12 per 100,000) in 2021. 

“The population of older adults in the US is growing, and so is the number who use cocaine and cannabis. We really need to think about how to best address this,”  T. Greg Rhee, a UConn School of Medicine psychiatric epidemiologist and the senior author of the study said.

Researchers say that the Baby Boomer generation has consistently shown high rates of substance use. As members of this generation enter older adulthood, the number of older adults seeking treatment for substance abuse has increased.