Fatal poisoning in drug addicts in the Nordic countries in 2007

Forensic Sci Int. 2011 Apr 15;207(1-3):170-6. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2010.10.001. Epub 2010 Oct 30.


The frequency of medico-legally examined fatal poisonings in 2007 among drug addicts was 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.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Drug Overdose
  • Drug Users / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Forensic Toxicology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narcotics / poisoning*
  • Poisoning / mortality
  • Psychotropic Drugs / poisoning*
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries / epidemiology
  • Sex Distribution
  • Substance-Related Disorders / mortality*
  • Young Adult


  • Narcotics
  • Psychotropic Drugs