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Keywords:

  • Dependence;
  • homicide;
  • mortality;
  • suicide;
  • toxicology;
  • violence

ABSTRACT

Aims  To determine the comparative toxicology of death by homicide and suicide by means other than substance toxicity.

Design  Cross-sectional (autopsy reports).

Setting  Sydney, Australia.

Cases  A total of 1723 cases of violent death were identified, comprising 478 homicide (HOM) cases and 1245 non-substance toxicity suicide (SUI) cases.

Findings  Substances were detected in 65.5% of cases, and multiple substances in 25.8%, with no group differences. Illicit drugs were detected in 23.9% of cases, and multiple illicit in 5.3%. HOM cases were significantly more likely to have an illicit drug [odds ratio (OR) 2.09] and multiple illicits (OR 2.94), detected, HOM cases being more likely to have cannabis (OR 2.39), opioids (OR 1.53) and psychostimulants (OR 1.59) present. HOM cases were, however, significantly less likely to have benzodiazepines (OR 0.53), antidepressants (OR 0.22) and antipsychotics (OR 0.23) present. Alcohol was present in 39.6% of cases (median blood alcohol concentration = 0.12), with no group difference in prevalence.

Conclusions  The role drugs play in premature death extends far beyond overdose and disease, with illicit drugs associated strongly with homicide.