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Methamphetamine-related fatalities in Australia: demographics, circumstances, toxicology and major organ pathology

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To examine the demographic characteristics, circumstances of death, toxicological results and major organ pathology of methamphetamine-related deaths in Australia. Design 

Retrospective review of coronial files. Setting 

Australia. Methods 

Cases in which methamphetamine was listed as a cause of death were identified from the National Coronial Information System (NCIS). Findings 

A total of 371 cases were identified. The mean age of decedents was 32.7 years; 77% were male and 35% were employed. Route of administration was predominantly by injection (89%). Drugs other than methamphetamine were detected in 89% of cases, most commonly benzodiazepines (41%) and morphine (36%). The median blood methamphetamine concentration was 0.2 mg/l (range 0.02–15.0 mg/l). Deaths were overwhelmingly accidental, with 14% determined to be suicides, and occurred in a private home (71%). Cardiovascular pathology, typically coronary artery atherosclerosis, was detected in 54% of decedents. Cerebrovascular pathology, most commonly cerebral haemorrhage and hypoxia, was present in 20% of cases. Conclusions 

Methamphetamine has contributed to a substantial number of deaths in Australia. Users need to be informed of the potential harms of methamphetamine use, particularly those associated with the cardiotoxicity of methamphetamine and the use of methamphetamine in conjunction with other drugs.

Keywords: Autopsy; cardiovascular; methamphetamine; mortality; pathology; toxicology

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia and 2: Department of Forensic Medicine, South West Sydney Area Health Service; School of Medicine, University of Sydney, Australia

Publication date: 2008-08-01

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