America's opioid epidemic is making more organs available for lifesaving transplants, researchers reported Wednesday.
Close to 14 percent of people who donated an organ in 2016 — 1,029 donors — had died of a drug overdose, the team of experts reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. That compares to just 1 percent in 2000, or 59 donors.
And the transplants are safe. Organs donated by people who have died of drug overdoses are not dangerous because most traces of the drug are gone by the time the organ is removed, said Dr. Josef Stehlik of the University of Utah, who also signed the letter. The report added that there is "no significant difference in survival after transplantation."
"The drugs are metabolized and excreted from the donor body by the time the transplant would take place (in brain-dead donors body functions — such as kidney and liver function — continue during preparation for transplant)," Stehlik told NBC News by email.