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Toxicology and Characteristics of Deaths Involving Zolpidem in New South Wales, Australia 2001–2010

Authors

  • Shane Darke Ph.D.,

    1. National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, NSW, Sydney, Australia.
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  • Mark Deady B.Psych. (Hons),

    1. National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, NSW, Sydney, Australia.
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  • Johan Duflou M.Med.Path. (Forens)

    1. Department of Forensic Medicine, Western Sydney Local Health District, Sydney, Australia.
    2. School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
    3. Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, NSW, Sydney, Australia.
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  • Funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.

Additional information and reprint requests
Professor Shane Darke, Ph.D.
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre
University of New South Wales
NSW 2052
Sydney
Australia
E-mail: s.darke@unsw.edu.au

Abstract

Abstract:  All cases presenting to the New South Wales Department of Forensic Medicine between January 1, 2001 and September 31, 2010 in which zolpidem was detected, were retrieved. A total of 91 cases were identified. The mean age was 49.4 years, 65.9% were male, and 61.5% were suicides. Zolpidem was a factor contributing to death in 35 (37.3%) cases, of which 31 (34.1%) involved zolpidem toxicity. The median blood zolpidem concentration was 0.20 mg/L (range 0.05–3.50 mg/L), with no significant gender difference. Drug toxicity cases involving zolpidem had significantly higher median blood zolpidem concentrations than other cases (0.50 vs. 0.10 mg/L). In 83.5% of cases, psychoactive substances other than zolpidem were detected, most commonly antidepressants (46.2%), benzodiazepines (35.2%), opioids (26.4%), and alcohol (39.6%). In summary, zolpidem was a factor contributing to death in a large proportion of cases, predominately involving drug toxicity and suicide.

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