Drug poisoning deaths are largely accidental and continue to increase, particularly among white men, in a county in the state of Indiana, according to a study presented at the 2019 American Academy of Pain Medicine annual meeting, held March 6-10, in Denver, Colorado.

For this retrospective review, investigators examined the demographic characteristics of Allen County, Indiana, individuals who died from drug poisoning involving controlled and illicit substances (n=533). Researchers evaluated the drugs present at the time of death using decedents’ toxicology report data, as well as data from the Indiana controlled substances prescribing database (INspect). In addition, changes in physician prescribing habits in this area during the 2013 to 2017 period were also reviewed.

From 2013 to 2017, the number of accidental drug poisonings resulting in death in Allen County was found to have increased from 51 to 126, respectively. The majority of deaths occurred in individuals who were men (60.6%), white (89.1%), employed (70.2%), and who used multiple substances (72%). In addition, 68.7% of drug poisoning deaths occurred at the decedent’s primary residence, and 57.8% of fatal poisonings occurred with other people present.

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Approximately 85% of fatal drug poisonings in 2016 involved illicit controlled substances, with 72% of the drugs being illicit opioids. Prescriptions per person decreased from 18.1 in 2014 to 6.5 in 2017, corresponding with a 64% decrease in controlled substance prescriptions (P =.001). During this same time period, the average daily opioid dose decreased from 82.0 mg/day in 2014 to 37.6 mg/day in 2017. Steady increases in hydrocodone-related fatal drug poisonings were observed starting in 2015, despite a decrease in narcotic-related drug poisoning deaths in that time period.

“Accidental deaths in Allen County from drug poisonings continue to increase annually despite the decrease in the number of prescriptions and opioid doses prescribed. Physicians’ prescribing habits are improving in response to the opioid epidemic,” noted the study authors.

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Reference

Eigner G, Tatara CA, Giffen M, Sanders JF, McMahan D, Henriksen B. Assessing the relationship between controlled substance prescribing and opioid poisoning toxicology: 2013-2017. Presented at: the 2019 American Academy of Pain Medicine annual meeting; March 6-10, 2019; Denver, CO. Abstract 113.