The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

4102.0: Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - Board 3

Abstract #59666

Drug induced deaths in Puerto Rico 1990-2000: Evidence of a public health emergency

Héctor M. Colón, PhD, Juan C. Reyes, EdDc, Tomás D. Matos, MS, and Rafaela R. Robles, EdD. Center for Addiction Studies, School of Medicine, Universidad Central del Caribe, PO Box 60327, Bayamón, PR 00960-6032, 787-288-0200,

This study analyzed trends in drug induced deaths occurring in Puerto Rico between 1990 and 2000. The CDC criteria for classifying death causes as drug induced was used. Age and gender standardized per capita rates were calculated based on the US year 2000 population to allow comparisons with overall US rates. Drug induced death rates in Puerto Rico more than doubled from 6.2 in 1990 (218 deaths) to 13.2 (452 deaths) in the year 2000. During the same period, rates in the US increased 87% from 3.8 in 1990 to 7.1 in 2000. The relative risk of drug induced deaths in Puerto Rico compared to the US was 1.63 in 1990 and increased to 1.85 by the year 2000. The largest increases in deaths were registered during 1992 and 1993 (34.6% annually). Rates continued to increase from 1994 to 2000 at an average annual percentage of 5.5%. Rate increases of 100% or more were found among males 15-19 and 40-59 years old and among females 35-39, 45-49 and 65 years old or more. The 1992-93 period coincided with sharp increases in the purity of street heroin. In addition, the largest increases were observed in deaths by overdose with opiates. There is a need for increased awareness and education among drug users concerning the risks of overdose, particularly its relationship with rapid fluctuations in drug purity. Up to date surveillance linked to expanded drug treatment and emergency room programs are urgently required to curb the increasing trend of drug induced deaths.

Learning Objectives:

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Emerging Patterns of Substance Use Poster Session

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA