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Opioid-related deaths and their counterpart by occurrence era, age group and coimplicated drugs: Scotland vs. England and Wales.

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Bird, Sheila Macdonald  ORCID logo


AIMS: Compare by occurrence era and age group how opioid-related deaths (ORDs) and their counterpart evolved in Scotland vs. England and Wales during 2006-2020. For Scotland, compare coimplication rates between ORDs and non-ORDs for any benzodiazepine, cocaine or gabapentin/pregabalin, and consider whether coimplication in ORDs depended on opioid-specificity. METHODS: Cross-tabulations of drug misuse deaths (DMDs) obtained by 3 yearly occurrence era (2006-2008 to 2018-2020) and age group (under 25, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55+ years) for England and Wales and subdivided by whether at least 1 opiate was mentioned on death certificate (DMD-Os or not); and of Scotland's opioid-related deaths (ORDs vs. non-ORDs) together with (i) coimplication by any benzodiazepine, cocaine or gabapentin/pregabalin; and (ii) opioid-specificity of ORDs. ORD is defined by heroin/morphine, methadone or buprenorphine being implicated in DMD. RESULTS: Per era between 2012-2014 and 2018-2020, Scotland's ORDs increased by 54% and non-ORDs by 34%. Increase in DMD-Os in England and Wales was more modest. Cocaine was implicated in 83% of Scotland's 2690 non-ORDs during 2006-2020; and any benzodiazepine in 53% of 8409 ORDs. However, in 2018-2020, coimplication rates in 2926 ORDs (880 non-ORDs) were 81% (33%) for any benzodiazepine, 30% (74%) for cocaine and 38% (22%) for gabapentin/pregabalin. Coimplication rate in 2018-2020 for any benzodiazepine was lowest at 70% (616/877) for heroin/morphine ORDs; and, by age group, at 66% (160/241) for ORDs aged 55+ years. CONCLUSIONS: Drug testing to inform users, shared intelligence between police and public health for earlier detection of changes in supply and monitoring of prescribed daily-dose of methadone are urgent.


Publication status: Published


age group, coimplicated drugs, opioid‐related deaths, patient safety, Humans, Analgesics, Opioid, Heroin, Wales, Gabapentin, Pregabalin, Methadone, Morphine, Scotland, England, Benzodiazepines, Cocaine, Opioid-Related Disorders

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Br J Clin Pharmacol

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