Oxycodone-related deaths in Sweden 2006-2018

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2022 May 1:234:109402. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2022.109402. Epub 2022 Mar 11.

Abstract

Aim: To identify and characterize oxycodone related deaths in Sweden from 2006 to 2018 and to compare them to other opioid-related deaths.

Methods: To assess the factors contributing to the deaths, we used multinomial logistic regression to compare oxycodone-related deaths extracted from all forensic autopsy examinations and toxicology cases in the age groups 15-34 (reference group), 35-54 and 55-74 with regard to sex, presence of benzodiazepines and alcohol at the time of death, prescription of oxycodone, benzodiazepines and antidepressants, previous substance use-related (SUD) treatment, and manner of death. The oxycodone related deaths were compared with deaths with presence of other opioids.

Result: We identified 575 oxycodone-related deaths, and the rate increased during the study period from 0.10 to 1.12 per 100,000 in parallel with an increase of oxycodone prescriptions from 3.17 to 30.33 per 1000. Oxycodone-related deaths amounted to 10.0% of all opioid-related deaths. The deaths occurred mainly in older patients previously being prescribed oxycodone. Benzodiazepines were present at the time of death in 403 (70%) and alcohol in 259 (45%). Prescriptions of any opioid for pain (61%), oxycodone (50%), benzodiazepines (67%) and antidepressants (55%) were common. Only 15% had received treatment for SUD during the last year.

Conclusion: Oxycodone-related deaths increased in Sweden between 2006 and 2018 in parallel to an increase in oxycodone prescriptions. The increase occurred mainly in older patients being prescribed oxycodone for pain. There might be specific interventions needed to avoid oxycodone-related deaths compared to other opioid-related deaths associated with illicit opioid use.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Fatal poisoning; Mortality; Oxycodone; Prescription opioids.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Oxycodone* / adverse effects
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Sweden / epidemiology

Substances

  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Oxycodone