OBJECTIVE: The data on England and Wales voluntarily supplied by Coroners to the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths for the August 1996-December 2002 time frame were analyzed. METHODS: All cases in which at least one analgesic- and cough suppressant-opioid other than heroin/morphine, methadone or buprenorphine was identified were extracted from the database. We hypothesized that: a) populations of addicts and non-addicts presented differences in patterns of drugs involved; and b) within the population of addicts and non-addicts, intentional and non-intentional deaths presented different patterns of substance consumption. RESULTS: A total of 2024 deaths related to selected opioids, either alone or in combination, were included in the analysis. Typically, non-addicts were older than 45 and died as a result of intentional poisoning whilst majority of addicts were young, males and victims of accidental deaths. In about 93% of cases the selected opioids were reported in combination with another substance. Most frequently identified narcotics were propoxyphene, codeine and dihydrocodeine. Co-proxamol, Co-codamol and Co-dydramol were typically prescribed for non-addicts, whilst dihydrocodeine was mostly given to addicts. In non-addicts, alcohol was mostly represented in accidental deaths and antidepressants were typically represented in intentional deaths. Conversely, illicit drugs and hypnotics/sedatives were typically reported in addicts' accidental deaths. CONCLUSIONS: The present report constitutes the largest available collection of analgesic- and cough suppressant-opioid mortality data in the UK. Users should be educated about risks associated with polydrug misuse.
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