Trends in opioid-related fatal overdoses in Massachusetts, 1990-2003

William Fernandez, Holly Hackman, Loreta Mckeown, Teresa Anderson, Beth Hume

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Since 1997, poisoning, particularly from heroin and other opioids, has been the leading cause of injury mortality in Massachusetts. Our aim was to describe recent trends in opioid-related poisoning deaths among Massachusetts residents. Methods: Massachusetts death files for the years 1990-2003, as coded by International Classification of Disease, Ninth Revision and International Classification of Disease, Tenth Revision, were used to identify all poisoning deaths and opioid-related poisoning deaths; rates were age-adjusted and grouped by year, sex, and race/ethnicity. Results: From 1990 to 2003, opioid-related fatal poisoning rates increased by 529% from 1.4 per 100,000 in 1990 to 8.8 per 100,000 in 2003. The proportion of total poisoning deaths associated with opioids rose from 28% in 1990 to 69% in 2003. Conclusions: Massachusetts experienced a significant increase in opioid-related poisoning death rates. To guide future public health interventions, further investigation is necessary to better delineate the specific opioids involved, the circumstances surrounding these deaths, and the medical and behavioral health care options available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-156
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Fatal overdose
  • Opioid
  • Poisoning death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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