Morbidity associated with non-fatal heroin overdose

Authors

  • Matthew Warner-Smith,

    1. National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia
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  • Shane Darke,

    Corresponding author
    1. National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia

      A/Prof Shane Darke National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre
      University of New South Wales
      NSW 2052
      Australia
      E-mail: s.darke@unsw.edu.au
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  • Carolyn Day

    1. National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia
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A/Prof Shane Darke National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre
University of New South Wales
NSW 2052
Australia
E-mail: s.darke@unsw.edu.au

ABSTRACT

Aims To estimate the range and severity of heroin overdose related morbidity.

Design Cross-sectional survey.

Setting Sydney, Australia.

Participants 198 heroin users.

Findings Sixty-nine per cent had experienced a heroin overdose, 28% in the preceding 12 months. Of those who had overdosed, 79% had experienced at least one overdose-related morbidity symptom. An ambulance had attended overdoses for 59% of subjects, 33% had required hospital treatment for overdose, and 14% had experienced overdose-related complications of sufficient severity to be admitted to a hospital ward. Indirect overdose-related morbidity included: physical injury sustained when falling at overdose (40%), burns (24%) and assault while unconscious (14%). Direct overdose-related morbidity included: peripheral neuropathy (49%), vomiting (33%), temporary paralysis of limbs (26%), chest infections (13%) and seizure (2%).

Conclusions There appears to be extensive morbidity associated with non-fatal overdose. This is clearly an area that requires more research to document the prevalence and nature of these harms, and factors associated with them.

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