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More Homeless Deaths caused by Overdoses than AIDS

The rate of deaths caused by drug overdose has tripled and reflects a rise overall in abuse of painkillers

The rate of deaths caused by drug overdose has tripled and reflects a rise overall in abuse of painkillers

January 16, 2013 – Overdosing on drugs, in particular heroin and prescription painkillers, has passed AIDS as the leading cause of homeless adult deaths in the U.S., according to a recent study of Boston’s homeless that was released Monday.

The recently completed study was for five years and followed homeless adults who had received treatment from one of Boston’s homeless programs. However, its conclusions, which are quite broad, apply to homeless that live in many of the different urban centers in the U.S., said the author of the study as well as homeless advocates.

The rate of deaths caused by drug overdose has tripled and reflects a rise overall in abuse of painkillers, said the lead author Dr. Travis Baggett of the study. Baggett said the trend is happening around the entire country as well as in homeless populations.

The study tracked over 28,000 adults who were homeless from 2003 to 2008 and found that of the ones that died, 17% of the deaths were due to overdoses of drugs, while only 6% were related to the HIV.

The results were a reversal of a study that took place over 15 years previously that found that only 6% of all deaths were drug overdoses and 18% were due to HIV in the homeless.

Following drug overdoses, the next leading cause of death amongst the homeless was cancer, while the third highest was heart disease. People who are homeless are significantly more apt to die in any given year than are their peers in the general population. Those homeless aged between 25 and 44 are nine times more apt and those between 45 and 64 are over four times more apt to die, according to the study.

The decline in deaths due to AIDS reflected the overall decline that has been seen in infection rates along with the improvement seen in the care and services of patients since the previous study 15 year ago. That study took place during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S.

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