Pattern analysis of 661,565 drug overdose deaths in the USA, 1979 to 2017
For almost four decades, the curve of drug overdose deaths in the USA has tracked along a remarkably predictable exponential growth trajectory. To understand the mechanisms driving this sustained pattern of growth – so as to be able to implement more effective epidemic interventions - we analyzed the data from 661,565 overdose deaths from 1979 through 2017. Analysis by year of birth and age at death disclosed a sharp emergence of risk in the cohorts born immediately after World War II, and then an inexorable youth-ward shift in the age at death for all subsequent birth cohorts. Drug waves bifurcated along a generational boundary (pre and post 1975), with different patterns seen in older versus younger generations in any given year. Patterns also varied systematically according to demographic factors (sex, race, urbanicity) and geography. New methods of data visualization will be used to show and explain these epidemiological patterns.