Drug overdose mortality among residents of single room occupancy buildings in San Francisco, California, 2010-2017

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2019 Nov 1:204:107571. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.107571. Epub 2019 Sep 21.


Background: Single room occupancy (SRO) buildings, also known as residential hotels, are a form of affordable housing common to cities in North America, and residents of these buildings face elevated rates of substance use, physical and mental multimorbidity, and mortality. Identifying distinct populations at greater risk of overdose death is crucial to the planning of interventions aiming to reduce drug-related mortality, yet no studies have assessed the population burden of overdose mortality among SRO residents. The present study quantifies and characterizes drug overdose mortality among residents of SRO buildings in a large U.S. city.

Methods: We used mortality records and a database of SRO buildings to calculate rate ratios comparing overdose mortality due to opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine among SRO residents and non-SRO residents in San Francisco, CA 2010-2017 and assessed bivariate differences in decedent and death location characteristics between SRO resident and other overdose decedents.

Results: There were 1,551 overdose deaths during the study period, with an overall rate of 21.3 per 100,000 residents (95%CI = 20.2-22.6). The rate among SRO residents (278.7, 95%CI = 252.9-306.5) was 19.3 (95%CI = 17.1-21.7) times that of non-SRO residents (21.3, 95%CI = 20.2-22.6). An additional 79 (5%) deaths among non-residents occurred in SRO buildings, and 86% of SRO resident decedents died at home compared to 64% of non-SRO residents (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Overdose mortality was substantially higher among SRO residents, who were also more likely to die from overdose at home, which highlights the need for resources and targeted interventions directed towards residents of SRO buildings.

Keywords: Drug overdose; Health disparities; Residential hotels; Single room occupancy (SRO) buildings; Urban health.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / toxicity
  • Cocaine / toxicity
  • Drug Overdose / mortality*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine / toxicity
  • Middle Aged
  • Residential Facilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • San Francisco / epidemiology
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Methamphetamine
  • Cocaine