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Med J Aust. 2004 Mar 1;180(5):211-4.

Seeking drugs or seeking help? Escalating "doctor shopping" by young heroin users before fatal overdose.

Author information

  • 1Melbourne Division of General Practice, North Carlton, VIC. raymond.martyres@mdgp.com.au

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To identify prescription drug-seeking behaviour patterns among young people who subsequently died of heroin-related overdose.

DESIGN:

Linkage of Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Coroner's Court records from Victoria.

SUBJECTS:

Two hundred and two 15-24-year-olds who died of heroin-related overdose between 6 January 1994 and 6 October 1999.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Patterns of use of medical services and prescription drugs listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in the years before death, and use of all drugs just before death.

RESULTS:

Polydrug use was reported in 90% of toxicology reports, and prescription drugs were present in 80% of subjects. Subjects accessed medical services six times more frequently than the general population aged 14-24 years, and more than half of all prescribed drugs were those prone to misuse, such as benzodiazepines and opioid analgesics. A pattern of increasing drug-seeking behaviour in the years before death was identified, with doctor-visitation rates, number of different doctors seen and rates of prescriptions peaking in the year before death.

CONCLUSIONS:

An apparent increase in "doctor shopping" in the years before heroin-related death may reflect the increasing misuse of prescription drugs, but also an increasing need for help. Identification of a pattern of escalating doctor shopping could be an opportunity for intervention, and potentially, reduction in mortality.

Comment in

PMID:
14984339
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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