Objective In light of an emerging epidemic identified in the United States and Canada, to identify trends in fatal drug toxicity involving oxycodone and the demographic characteristics and indicators of socioeconomic disadvantage of the deceased.
Study design Population-based observational study in Victoria, Australia.
Population Decedents whose death was reported to the Victorian Coroner between 2000 and 2009 and where oxycodone was detected.
Main outcome measures Association between supply of oxycodone and deaths. Demographic characteristics of decedents. Rate ratios of the rural or metropolitan location and socioeconomic indicators of disadvantage of the deceased.
Results Supply to Victoria has increased nine-fold from 7.5 mg per capita in 2000 to 67.5 mg per capita in 2009. Detection of oxycodone in deaths reported to the Victorian Coroner has increased from 4 (0.08/100 000 population) in 2000 to 97 (1.78/100 000 population) in 2009—a 21-fold increase in deaths. Of the 320 cases described, 53.8% (172) were the result of drug toxicity. Of these, 52.3% were unintentional and 19.8% intentional self-harm; the remaining 27.9% are either still under investigation by the coroner or intent is unknown. Drug toxicity deaths were overrepresented in both rural areas and areas indexed with high levels of disadvantage.
Conclusions The substantial increase in the number of deaths involving oxycodone is strongly and significantly associated with the increase in supply. Most drug toxicity deaths involving oxycodone were unintentional. This newly identified trend in fatalities in Victoria supports concerns that a pattern of increasing deaths involving oxycodone is emerging globally.
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Funding This work was completed during ACR's participation in the Victorian Public Health Training Scheme, funded by the State of Victoria through the Department of Health. The views and conclusions are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of Health.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the human research ethics committees of the Victorian Department of Justice, Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, and Monash University.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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