Self-reported overdose among injecting drug users in London: extent and nature of the problem
Powis B, Strang J, Griffiths P, Taylor C,
Williamson S, Fountain J, Gossop M
National Addiction Centre,
London, UK.
Addiction 1999 Apr; 94(4):471-8


AIMS: To estimate the extent and nature of overdose and factors associated with overdose among injecting drug users in London. DESIGN: Three hundred and twelve current injecting drug users were recruited and interviewed in community settings by a team of "privileged access interviewers". MEASUREMENTS: A structured questionnaire was used that covered the following areas: demographic characteristics, drug use, injecting behaviour, sharing practices, severity of drug dependence, experience of overdose, injecting-related health problems and treatment history. FINDINGS: The results showed that experience of overdose was common (38%). A majority (54%) had witnessed someone else overdose. Overdosing was not a solitary experience; over 80% of subjects who had overdosed had done so in the presence of someone else, but only 27% reported ambulances having been called. Factors found to be associated with overdose were: age at which injecting began; gender (women being more likely to experience overdose); use of alcohol; and polydrug injection. The overall rate of overdosing was one per 6 years of injecting; however, once an individual had an overdose the chance of having another increased. The risk of experiencing a first overdose fell with years of injecting. CONCLUSIONS: Harm-reduction interventions with drug injectors should educate users on the risk factors associated with overdose and actions that should be taken when someone has overdosed. Interventions designed to reduce the risk of overdose may be more effective if they are differentially targeted on drug injectors who have already experienced an overdose.
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