Unnatural Death among Treatment Seeking Substance Users in Singapore: A Retrospective Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Jul 31;16(15):2743. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16152743.


Substance use carries a higher risk of unnatural death. A retrospective analysis of 42 treatment seekers between 2011-2015 was conducted through medical record review to understand the profile and circumstances leading to premature deaths. Ninety percent of the subjects were males. The mean age at death was 44.9 (SD ± 13.1). Opioids (52.4%), benzodiazepines (45.2%) and alcohol (35.7%) were the main substances used by the group. Suicide was the most common cause of death (n = 27, 64.3%) followed by accidents (n = 15; 35.7%). Among the suicide cases, alcohol was the main substance used (33.3%) followed by opioids (25.9%). A total of 58.5% (n = 24) deaths occurred within a year of their last visit while 41.5% (n = 17) were dead more than a year after their last visit. Of the total cases (n = 41), 63% had a history of mental illness with depressive disorder (53.8%) being the most common. History of suicide attempts were reported in 34.1% (n = 14) of cases and 50% of the subjects (n = 21) had a history of suicidal ideation. Drug related offences were reported in 57.1% of the subjects, of which 60% (n = 18) committed suicide. The findings support the need for appropriate treatment resources to reduce the untimely deaths among substance users.

Keywords: accidental death; alcohol; opiates; overdose; substance use; suicide; unnatural death.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Singapore / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / mortality*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy
  • Young Adult