Fatal poisoning among patients with drug addiction

K. W. Simonsen, D. J. Christoffersen, J. Banner, K. Linnet, L. V. Andersen

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Introduction: Fatal poisonings among drug addicts in Denmark in 2012 were examined. Cause of death, abuse pattern and geographic differences are discussed and data are compared with previous studies. Methods: All fatal poisonings examined at the three institutes of forensic medicine in Denmark in 2012 were included in the study. Results: A total of 188 fatal intoxications were recorded. The median age increased from 37.5 in 2007 to 41.5 in 2012. The majority were men (77%). Methadone (59%) was the main intoxicant. The decrease in the frequency of heroin/morphine deaths since 1997 (71%) continued, declining to 44% in 2002, 33% in 2007 and finally to 27% in 2012. Few deaths from central stimulants (amphetamine and cocaine) occurred. Multiple drug use was common and consisted mainly of opioids, cocaine, amphetamine, cannabis, benzodiazepines and alcohol. Heroin/morphine use was most frequent on Funen and in South Jutland. Cocaine was most frequently detected in East Denmark, while amphetamine was more frequent in West Denmark. ConclusionS: The number of fatal poisonings among drug addicts has stabilised around 200. The increase in methadone deaths continued and, as in 2007, methadone was the main intoxicant. The increase in methadone deaths seems to be associated with use of methadone in substitution treatment. Nevertheless, methadone treatment also seems to save lives, as indicated by the increasing median age. Use of antidepressants and antipsychotics increased to a high level compared with 2007, indicating that a considerable number of drug addicts also have psychiatric illness.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA5147
JournalDanish Medical Journal
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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