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Neuropsychopharmacol Hung. 2013 Dec;15(4):253-9.

Deadly heroin or the death of heroin -- overdoses caused by illicit drugs of abuse in Budapest, Hungary between 1994 and 2012.

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Forensic Medicine, Department of Surgical Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.


Rates of illicit drug use and drug-related deaths have continuously increased in developed countries since the 1960s even though the patterns of use and thus the related mortality differ from region to region. In Europe heroin is the drug most often implicated in overdoses. The decedents are most often male, between 20 and 30 years of age and have a long history of drug use. According to the majority of available studies a concomitant use of alcohol and benzodiazepines is one of the risk factors of heroin overdose. In our study we have examined the basic demographic and toxicological features of illicit drug related death cases in Budapest, Hungary between 1994 and 2012. Drug overdose death cases have been divided into two subgroups according to the substances responsible for the death of the subjects: an opioid group and a non-opioid group. The huge majority (87.9%) of decedents died due to heroin overdose and were male (87%). There has been a significant increase in the mean age of the opioid group for the past 19 years. The majority of heroin overdose cases (58%) has had no other psychofarmacons present at the toxicological examination. We have found a slight but significant positive correlation (p=0.0204, r=0.349) between the number of heroin overdose death cases and the mean concentration of street level purity heroin. Most of the examined demographic and toxicological features of the population studied have been in concordance with data previously reported. However, in contrast to other studies we report a strikingly high proportion of "pure" heroin overdose cases where no other psychoactive substances were found. The reason for this is currently unknown; we can only speculate that it can be related to the fact that heroin is used and abused differently from other countries. The remarkable phenomenon of the "ageing" of heroin users may also support a change in the drug use habits of the youngest population. The emergence and spread of new designer drugs also change the mortality characteristics of the youngest abusers and pose a new challenge for researchers.

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