SOURCE: British Columbia Centre for Excellence In HIV/AIDS

British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS

May 19, 2016 08:00 ET

Simple Routine Medical Screening Could Help Identify Those at Highest Risk of Overdose Deaths

Study Shows Health Care Professionals Could Play a Crucial Role in Identifying People Most at Risk for Overdose Deaths

VANCOUVER, BC--(Marketwired - May 19, 2016) - Inquiries about a patient's overdose history by a family doctor or first line health care professional could help identify those most at risk of dying from a fatal drug overdose. A new study from researchers at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) found individuals who experienced a non-fatal overdose are more likely to subsequently die from a fatal overdose than those who did not report a recent overdose. The risk of death also increases significantly as the number of reported past non-fatal overdoses rises. The researchers suggest simple screening to identify people who are most at risk could help lower overdose death rates.

"Health and social workers may be in a unique position to easily identify individuals most at risk of death due to overdose," said Dr. Kanna Hayashi, study senior author, research scientist at the BC-CfE's Urban Health Research Initiative and Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. "This is the first study to demonstrate individuals who have experienced a non-fatal overdose in the past are at a much higher risk of a subsequent fatal overdose, suggesting those providing services to persons with addiction may be able to easily identify individuals for intensive overdose prevention interventions."

In recent years, fatal overdose has become a leading cause of death in North America. Research to allow for the identification of those most at risk of death has been lacking. B.C. recently became the first province in Canada to declare a public health emergency in response to the current crisis from drug overdoses. The B.C. Ministry of Health explained the purpose of the emergency declaration was to "allow medical health officers throughout the province to collect more robust, real-time information on overdoses in order to identify immediately where risks are arising and take proactive action to warn and protect people who use drugs."

"While we are in the midst of a public health emergency due to fatal overdoses, the reality is only a tiny fraction of the drug using population is likely to experience a fatal overdose. These data imply basic screening activities, when routinely performed, could help identify those at highest risk," said Dr. Seonaid Nolan, Assistant Professor of Medicine, research scientist at the BC-CfE and addiction medicine physician at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver.

Data from the study "Non Fatal overdose as a risk factor for subsequent fatal overdose among people who inject drugs", published in the top U.S. addiction journal Drugs and Alcohol Dependence, were derived from 2317 participants between May 1996 and December 2011.

About the Urban Health Research Initiative

The Urban Health Research Initiative (UHRI) is an innovative research program of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS based on a network of studies developed to help identify and understand the many factors that affect the health of urban populations. Focusing primarily on issues relating to substance abuse, infectious diseases, the urban environment and homelessness, UHRI aims to improve the health of individuals and communities through research to inform policy. Founded in 2007, UHRI's team consists of researchers, epidemiologists, statisticians, ethnographers, research assistants, research coordinators, registered nurses, knowledge translations coordinators, students, and support staff.

About the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS

The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) is Canada's largest HIV/AIDS research, treatment and education facility and is internationally recognized as an innovative world leader in combating HIV/AIDS and related diseases. BC-CfE is based at St. Paul's Hospital, Providence Health Care, a teaching hospital of the University of British Columbia. The BC-CfE works in close collaboration with key provincial stakeholders, including government, health authorities, health care providers, academics from other institutions, and the community to decrease the health burden of HIV and AIDS. By developing, monitoring and disseminating comprehensive research and treatment programs for HIV and related illnesses, the BC-CfE helps improve the health of British Columbians.

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