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Br J Gen Pract. 2000 Jul; 50(456): 546–549.
PMCID: PMC1313749

Experience of heroin overdose among drug users attending general practice.


BACKGROUND: Heroin overdose is responsible for significant mortality. It has not previously been highlighted as an important prevention or care issue for general practitioners (GPs) involved in the management of drug misuse. AIMS: To examine the prevalence and experience of heroin overdose in a population of drug users attending a general practice. METHOD: A questionnaire-based interview of drug users attending a general practice in Dublin, Ireland. RESULTS: Twenty-four (73% of estimated total) drug users were interviewed. Although 17 (71%) were on recognised methadone treatment programmes, 10 (42%) were still injecting heroin. A total of 23 (96%) had witnessed an overdose, with 10 (42%) having been victims of overdose themselves. Twenty-two (92%) knew a victim of fatal overdose, with four (17%) having been present at a fatal overdose. The interviews revealed high levels of activity associated with overdose and poor use of preventive measures. CONCLUSION: The issue of prevention and management of overdose should become a priority for GPs caring for opiate-dependent patients.

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