What has increased the risk for opioid overdose?

Updated: Jun 21, 2018
  • Author: David W Dixon, DO; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Answer

Increases in accidental heroin overdoses are postulated to stem in part from a combination of decreasing cost and increasing purity. According to the DEA, average heroin purity increased from 7% in 1980, to 48% in 2000, to 70% in 2003. This allows first-time users to get high by snorting or smoking heroin, and eventually advance to IV use when tolerance develops, making initial heroin use more palatable to some addicts. Increased purity also makes mistakes in dosing potentially more lethal.

Additionally, many users believe that risk of overdose is minimal when snorting or smoking heroin. In reality, the risk of overdose remains substantial regardless of route of administration.

Mortality rates are substantially reduced when patients are treated with methadone or buprenorphine maintenance therapy.


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