Overdose deaths among young adults rise ‘dramatically’

     A jug of used needles sits near  an industrial area of Camden. (Mel Evans/AP Photo)

    A jug of used needles sits near an industrial area of Camden. (Mel Evans/AP Photo)

    As the region and country wrestle with a growing heroin epidemic, a new report finds that overdose deaths among young adults, especially men, is rapidly rising.

    Trust for America’s Health analyzed federal health data between 1999 and 2013 and found that overdose death rates have more than doubled in New Jersey and Delaware.

    “If you compare it to other health epidemics, chronic epidemics — obesity, tobacco use — personally, I’ve never seen rates go up this high, this dramatically, this quickly,” said Richard Hamburg, deputy director of Trust for America’s Health.

    The analysis found that Pennsylvania ranks first in overdose deaths among 19- to 25-year-old men, at about 30 deaths per 100,000 young adults, between 2011 and 2013.

    The good news, said Hamburg, is that in the group’s review of state responses, all three states have been adopting policies and prevention strategies to better address the problem.

    It’s hard to point to any one factor, but a general rise in prescription drug use likely plays a big role, Hamburg said.

    A Philadelphia Inquirer county-level analysis of federal data for New Jersey and Pennsylvania found that Gloucester and Bucks counties had the highest fatality rates among young men in their respective states.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal