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Unintentional Drug-related Deaths in Cambridgeshire: A Retrospective Observational Study.

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Khan, Tahir S 
Boyle, Adrian 
Talbot, Susie 


BACKGROUND:  Drug-related deaths are a growing public health problem in the United Kingdom, overtaking road fatalities and homicides in terms of annual deaths. In this study, we investigated the causes and circumstances of unintentional drug-related deaths occurring in the county of Cambridgeshire, with the objective of identifying the prevalence of physical, mental, and social health problems within this cohort. METHODS:  We collected data on the demographics and mental and physical health of, and drugs contributing to, 30 consecutive unintentional drug-related deaths recorded by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough County Council Coroners in 2017. A retrospective observational study was used, and data were collected by manual extraction from coroners' files. RESULTS:  Social isolation was identified as a recurring theme amongst the decedents, although homelessness was found in very few cases. Pharmacologically, multiple drug toxicity and opioid toxicity were highly prevalent, whilst prescription opioids were implicated in more cases than heroin. Chronic pain was also highly prevalent amongst the decedents, and a history of mental illness was found to occur in the majority of cases. DISCUSSION:  Our findings show that reports from the coronial system provide a rich narrative to understand the causes of drug-related deaths. We have identified that individuals who die from drug-related deaths frequently have multiple adverse physical, mental, and social problems. This implies that any attempt to reduce drug-related deaths requires a multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary approach.



drugs-related deaths, illicit drugs, overdose, prescription drugs, risk factors

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC