Morbidity associated with heroin overdose presentations to an emergency department: A 10-year record linkage study
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Introduction: To examine hospitalizations in a cohort of 224 patients who presented with non-fatal heroin overdose to an ED. Methods: A record linkage study, using the morbidity, mental health and mortality databases in the Data Linkage Unit of the Department of Health, Western Australia. The main outcome measures were hospital separations 5 years before and after entry into the cohort. Results: Before entry into the cohort, 199 (89%) patients had an admission to mental health services. These 199 had a combined total of 1367 separations, most commonly for a mental health condition, injury or poisoning. Women had more than twice the relative risk (RR) of men for all separations (RR 2.35, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.96–2.82, P < 0.001) and for injury and poisoning separations (RR 2.04, 95% CI 1.56–2.66, P < 0.001). The highest concentrations of separations occurred within 1 year before and 1 year after entry into the cohort. There were 12 (5.4%, 95% CI 2.9–9.4%) deaths, most commonly from overdose. Conclusion: Non-fatal heroin overdose ED presentations are associated with a cluster of hospitalizations around that episode, likely to be related to heroin availability. Presentation to hospital by heroin users represents an opportunity to counsel less risky behaviour.
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