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Opioid overdose victims die with other substances in their system

By
Tauren Dyson
About 82 percent of deaths that involved opioids also and included other substances, including cocaine or methamphetamine. File Photo by Leksiiedorenko/Shutterstock
About 82 percent of deaths that involved opioids also and included other substances, including cocaine or methamphetamine. File Photo by Leksiiedorenko/Shutterstock

May 29 (UPI) -- A large number of people who overdose from opioid use have other substances in their systems when they die, new findings show.

About 82 percent of deaths that involved opioids included other substances like cocaine, methamphetamine and other stimulants, according to findings published in the July issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

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"As a provider, these findings indicate a pressing need to address and treat not just opioid use disorder, but other substances that patients are misusing," lead author Joshua Barocas, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center and study lead author, said in a news release.

Polysubstance use, which is using more than one substance at a time, is growing among people who abuse opioids.

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BMC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health looked over opioid-related overdose deaths in the state between 2014 and 2015. They divided the deaths by opioid-only, opioids and other substances that aren't stimulants, and opioids that involved stimulants used with or without other substances.

Toxicology results revealed that more than 2,200 opioid-related earths occurred in Massachusetts over the period of the study. About 17 percent of the deaths involved only opioids, while 36 percent included opioids and cocaine. Fourty-six percent included opioids and non-stimulant substances.

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Many of the people in the study who were likely to have opioids and stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine in their system when they died included non-rural residents, those over age 24, people with co-morbid illnesses, who are black or who are homeless .

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"To truly make a difference in reducing opioid overdose deaths, we must tackle issues such as homelessness and access to mental health services. This means not only investing in treatment but also implementing tailored programs that address the specific barriers to accessing care," Barocas said.

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