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Intentional overdose among heroin overdose survivors


Previous studies have reported varying rates of intentional overdose among heroin overdose survivors. This article reports on the prevalence of intentional heroin overdose among a sample of overdose survivors in Melbourne, Australia. This is part of a larger study examining the risk factors associated with nonfatal overdose. The study involved interviews, with 256 heroin overdose survivors successfully resuscitated by Melbourne Ambulance Service paramedics. A substantial minority (17%) of the sample indicated that they had ever had an intentional overdose, and 67% had one within the last 6 months (11% of the total sample). Of those who had ever intentionally overdosed, 21% did so at the overdose for which they were recruited into the study (4% of total sample). Self-reported reasons for intentional heroin overdose fell into two categories: precipitating events and emotional states prior to use. Intentional overdose appears to comprise a relatively low proportion of overall heroin overdoses. However, given the complexity of suicidal thought and behavior, it is possible that some heroin overdose survivors who report their overdose to be unintentional were in fact experiencing some degree of suicidal thinking at the time of the overdose. Future research could address the potentially ambiguous nature of some intentional heroin overdoses.

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Correspondence to Penny Heale.

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Heale, P., Dietze, P. & Fry, C. Intentional overdose among heroin overdose survivors. J Urban Health 80, 230–237 (2003).

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