Involvement of amphetamines in sudden and unexpected death

J Forensic Sci. 2009 Mar;54(2):478-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2008.00949.x. Epub 2009 Jan 27.


In the present study, the effects of amphetamine-class drugs were examined in cases reported to the Victorian coroner from 2001 to 2005 to determine if death can occur from the use of amphetamine-class drugs alone. A total of 169 cases were reviewed where a forensic autopsy detected amphetamine(s) in the blood. Pathology, toxicology, and police reports were analyzed in all cases to ascertain the involvement of amphetamine-class drugs in these deaths. In Victoria, methamphetamine (MA) is the principal abused amphetamine-class followed by methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). There were six cases in which a cerebral hemorrhage caused death and three cases in which serotonin syndrome was established as being caused by the interaction of MDMA and moclobemide. There were 19 cases in which long-term use of amphetamines was associated with heart disease. There were three cases where amphetamine-class drugs alone were regarded as the cause of death, of which two cases exhibited high levels of MDMA and lesser amounts of MA and/or amphetamine. There were no cases in which significant natural disease was absent and death was regarded as caused by the use of MA. There was no correlation between blood concentration of drug and outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / mortality*
  • Amphetamines / blood
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cause of Death
  • Death, Sudden / etiology*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Female
  • Forensic Pathology
  • Forensic Toxicology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Serotonin Syndrome / mortality
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / mortality


  • Amphetamines