A new study published in the Journal of Urban Health could have a significant impact on the way heroin overdose cases are counted and may dramatically increase the number of reported heroin-related deaths across the country.
Researchers at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI analyzed accidental opioid overdoses in Marion County, Indiana, from 2010 through 2015 and discovered that deaths where heroin was present may be significantly undercounted.
During the six-year study period, the IUPUI team examined the death certificates and toxicology reports for 1,199 accidental drug-overdose fatalities in Marion County and classified 455 as heroin-related. During the same time period, the Marion County Public Health Department recorded just 141 deaths caused by heroin.
“What happens a lot of times when people overdose is that they have multiple substances in their system,” said Brad Ray, an assistant professor at SPEA who studies substance abuse. “Because of the use of poly-drug codes to classify deaths when multiple drugs are present, we tend to undercount the prevalence of heroin in deaths because we usually count whether the death was a result of heroin rather than whether heroin was present.” (more…)