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Concurrent use of opioids and stimulants and risk of fatal overdose: A cohort study

BMC Public Health. 2022 Nov 15;22(1):2084. doi: 10.1186/s12889-022-14506-w.


BACKGROUND: Stimulant use has been rising among people with opioid use disorder in recent years in North America, alongside a parallel rise in illicit drug toxicity (overdose) deaths. This study aimed to examine the association between stimulant use and overdose mortality.

METHODS: Data from a universal health insurance client roster were used to identify a 20% random general population sample (aged ≥12) in British Columbia, Canada between January 1 2015 and December 31 2018 (N = 1,089,682). Provincial health records were used to identify people who used opioids and/or stimulants. Fatal overdose observed during follow-up (January 12,015- December 312,018) was retrieved from Vital Statistics Death Registry and BC Coroners Service Data. Potential confounders including age, sex, health region, comorbidities and prescribed medications were retrieved from the provincial client roster and health records.

RESULTS: We identified 7460 people who used stimulants and or opioids. During follow-up there were 272 fatal overdose events. People who used both opioids and stimulants had more than twice the hazard of fatal overdose (HR: 2.02, 95% CI: 1.47-2.78, p < 0.001) compared to people who used opioids only. The hazard of death increased over time among people who used both opioids and stimulants.

CONCLUSIONS: There is an urgent need to prioritize the service needs of people who use stimulants to reduce overdose mortality in British Columbia. Findings have relevance more broadly in other North American settings, where similar trends in opioid and stimulant polysubstance use have been observed.

PMID:36380298 | DOI:10.1186/s12889-022-14506-w

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