Population-based data on trends and characteristics on polydrug overdoses are critically needed to help understand the changing drug epidemic in the United States, and to identify risk patterns and targets for overdose prevention for prescription and illicit opioid deaths. We conducted a statewide study in Tennessee to evaluate characteristics and trends of polydrug overdose deaths during 2013-2017.
We identified polydrug overdose deaths using ICD-10 codes and literal cause-of-death text in the death statistical files. We evaluated trends, contributing drugs, and demographic characteristics of overdoses (n = 2567 single-drug and n = 4683 polydrug deaths). Average annual percent change estimates (AAPCs) with associated 95% CIs were estimated using Poisson regression.
Polydrug overdoses increased annually, with higher AAPC for polydrug compared with single-drug overdoses (AAPC: 13.6%, 95% CI: 10.6%-16.7% and 5.2%, 95% CI: 2.9%-7.5%, respectively). The highest increases in polydrug overdoses were observed in males (AAPC: 15.4%, non-Hispanic blacks (AAPC: 33.3%), and decedents aged 18-34 years (AAPC: 21.3%).
All drug and opioid polydrug deaths increased during 2013-2017, with the highest increases seen in males, blacks, and younger age groups. Over 80% of illicit opioid overdoses involved more than one drug, highlighting the need to go beyond opioids to prevent overdoses.