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Frequency of non-fatal heroin overdose: survey of heroin users recruited in non-clinical settings

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7054.402 (Published 17 August 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:402
  1. Michael Gossop, head of researcha,
  2. Paul Griffiths, senior researchera,
  3. Beverly Powis, research psychologista,
  4. Sara Williamson, research psychologista,
  5. John Strang, professor of the addictionsa
  1. a Drug Transitions Study, National Addiction Centre, London SE5 8AF
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Gossop.
  • Accepted 10 May 1996

Heroin users are at risk of overdose, sometimes with fatal consequences. Studies have examined accident and emergency room data1 and recorded deaths,2 though such figures underestimate the full extent to which overdoses occur and are only a rough indicator of the prevalence of overdose among drug takers. A recent Australian study reported that about two thirds of a sample of heroin injectors had taken an overdose.3 The present study describes the frequency of drug overdose and the factors related to overdose among heroin users recruited in non-clinical settings.

Methods and results

During 1994, 438 heroin users were contacted and interviewed by privileged access interviewers4 as part of a study of early and episodic heroin users. Information on demographics, patterns of drug use, and overdose was collected by structured interviews. Onset of heroin use was comparatively recent for many of our sample (11% were in the first year of heroin use and 48% in the first three years of use), and …

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