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Addiction. 2001 Aug;96(8):1113-25.

Heroin overdose: causes and consequences.

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National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


Over the past decade fatal opioid overdose has emerged as a major public health issue internationally. This paper examines the risk factors for overdose from a biomedical perspective. While significant risk factors for opioid overdose fatality are well recognized, the mechanism of fatal overdose remains unclear. Losses of tolerance and concomitant use of alcohol and other CNS depressants clearly play a major role in fatality; however, such risk factors do not account for the strong age and gender patterns observed consistently among victims of overdose. There is evidence that systemic disease may be more prevalent in users at greatest risk of overdose. We hypothesize that pulmonary and hepatic dysfunction resulting from such disease may increase susceptibility to both fatal and non-fatal overdose. Sequelae of non-fatal overdose are recognized in the clinical literature but few epidemiological data exist describing the burden of morbidity arising from such sequelae. The potential for overdose to cause persisting morbidity is reviewed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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