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Racial/ethnic trends in opioid and polysubstance opioid overdose mortality in adolescents and young adults, 1999-2020.

OBJECTIVES: Previous reports have described variations in opioid overdose mortalities among different race/ethnicity groups. We have analyzed racial/ethnicity trends in opioid and polysubstance opioid overdose mortalities in adolescents and young adults to further characterize differences and potential sub-epidemics within this specific population.

METHODS: We used mortality data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) Multiple Cause of Death file from 1999 to 2020. Drug overdose mortalities were identified using International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10) codes. Joinpoint regression was used to examine mortality rates for all opioids, opioids with a stimulant, opioids with benzodiazepines, and opioids with alcohol among racial/ethnic groups (non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, non-Hispanic other) in adolescents and young adults.

RESULTS: The Average Annual Percent Change (AAPC) for mortality due to opioid and polysubstance opioid overdose increased for all racial/ethnic groups where data was available for analysis from 1999 to 2020. For mortality due to any opioid and any opioid with a stimulant, the greatest AAPC was seen among non-Hispanic Blacks.

CONCLUSIONS: Unprecedented increases in mortality due to opioid overdose occurred in the last two decades among adolescents and young adults. Heterogenous trends support the notion that the previously defined opioid overdose epidemic "waves" may not accurately depict the effects of the crisis in all race/ethnicity groups. Additionally, alarming increases in opioid-stimulant overdose mortality starting in 2012 further characterize the interrelated effects of the third and fourth waves.

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