Fatal poisoning in drug addicts in the Nordic countries in 2007

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Kirsten Wiese Simonsen, P.T. Normann, G. Ceder, E. Vuori, S. Thordardottir, G. Thelander, A.C. Hansen, B. Teige, D. Rollmann

The frequency of medico-legally examined fatal poisonings in 2007 among drug addictswas investigated
in five Nordic countries; Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The number of deaths, age, sex,
place of death, main intoxicant, and other drugs present in blood samples were recorded to obtain
national and comparable Nordic data, as well as data to compare with earlier studies in 2002, 1997, and
1991.
Norway had the highest incidence of drug addict deaths by poisoning followed by Denmark, with 8.24
and 6.92 per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively. The death rates in Finland (4.02), Iceland (4.56), and
Sweden (3.53) were about half that of Norway and Denmark. Compared with earlier studies, the death
rates were unchanged in Denmark and Norway, but increased in Finland, Iceland, and Sweden. In all
countries, fewer deaths (29–35%) were recorded in the capital area compared with earlier studies.
Females accounted for 11–19% of the fatal poisonings. Iceland deviates with a more equal distribution
between men and women (40%).
Deaths from methadone overdoses increased in all Nordic countries, and methadone was the main
intoxicant in Denmark in 2007, accounting for 51% of the poisonings. In Norway and Sweden, heroin/
morphine was still the main intoxicant with a frequency of 68% and 48%, respectively. In Iceland, 3
deaths each were due to heroin/morphine and methadone, respectively. Finland differs from other
Nordic countries in having a high number of poisonings caused by buprenorphine and very few caused
by heroin/morphine. The total number of buprenorphine deaths in Finland doubled from 16 in 2002 to
32 in 2007, where it constituted 25% of deaths.
The general toxicological screening program showed widespread multi-drug use in all countries. The
median number of drugs per case varied from 3 to 5. The most frequently detected substances were
heroin/morphine, methadone, buprenorphine, tramadol, amphetamine, cocaine, tetrahydrocannabinol,
benzodiazepines and ethanol.
Original languageEnglish
JournalForensic Science International
Volume207
Issue number1-3
Pages (from-to)170-176
Number of pages7
ISSN0379-0738
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2011

ID: 33170869