Opioid overdose deaths have continued to rise in Tennessee (TN) with fentanyl emerging as a major contributor. Current data are needed to identify at-risk populations to guide prevention strategies. We conducted a large statewide observational study among TN adult decedents (2013-2016) to evaluate the association of sociodemographic factors and prescribing patterns with opioid overdose deaths.
Among drug overdose decedents identified using death certificate data (n = 5483), we used logistic regression to estimate adjusted odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals for characteristics associated with prescription opioid (PO) (excluding fentanyl), fentanyl, and heroin alone overdoses. Among decedents linked to TN's Prescription Drug Monitoring Database using deterministic algorithms, we obtained prescription history in the year before death (n = 3971), which was evaluated by type of overdose using descriptive statistics.
Younger, non-White decedents had lower odds of PO overdose, while females and benzodiazepines as a contributing cause were associated with increased odds of PO overdose. Younger age, Non-Hispanic Black race/ethnicity, greater than high school education, and cocaine/other stimulants as a contributing cause were associated with increased odds of fentanyl or heroin overdoses. Over 55% of PO, 39.2% of fentanyl, and 20.7% of heroin overdoses had an active opioid prescription at death. For PO, fentanyl, and heroin decedents, respectively, 46.0%, 30.5%, and 26.2% had an active prescription for benzodiazepines at death.
Prescription opioid overdose deaths were associated with different sociodemographic profiles and prescribing history compared to fentanyl and heroin overdose deaths in TN. Data can guide prevention strategies to reduce opioid overdose mortality.