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SAMHSA News - July/August 2005, Volume 13, Number 4

DAWN Data Released on Drug Deaths

SAMHSA recently released findings on drug-related mortality from the 2003 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) that provide a picture of deaths involving recent drug use in 6 states and 32 metropolitan areas.

This is the first time there has been any state information from DAWN.

Six states provided mortality data to DAWN—Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Utah, and Vermont. Fatality rates for drug misuse in these states ranged from 88 to 162 deaths per 1 million population.

"These findings from the new DAWN provide a clearer picture of drug-related mortality than we have had before," said Judy K. Ball, Ph.D., M.P.A., DAWN Team Leader in SAMHSA's Office of Applied Studies.

She explained that this information is important for a number of reasons. First, knowing what drugs and drug combinations are lethal can be a potent tool for prevention and treatment efforts. Second, the addition of the 6 states provides the first view of drug-related mortality in rural areas where even a few deaths may indicate an important problem. Third, better information is essential to guide action, and this will be the only available information on drug use for some areas.

Among the metropolitan areas, Baltimore and Albuquerque had the highest rates of drug misuse deaths, exceeding 200 deaths per 1 million population. Another 14 areas had drug misuse death rates that exceeded 100 deaths per 1 million population.

These data show substantial variations in drug-related deaths across jurisdictions within the states, with the highest rates not always found in urban centers.

Participation in DAWN is voluntary, so not all jurisdictions provide data. DAWN counts of drug-related deaths cannot be projected to the Nation as a whole.

The study, Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2003: Area Profiles of Drug-Related Mortality, is a new version of DAWN—the result of a major redesign—so these data cannot be compared with data from prior years. In one key change, DAWN now captures any death related to recent drug use. Findings are presented for deaths involving drug misuse and abuse, as well as drug-related suicides.

"We must encourage those in need to enter and remain in treatment before they become a mortality statistic," said Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W., SAMHSA Administrator.

DAWN mortality data indicate that the typical drug misuse death involves multiple drugs, an average of 2.7 drugs per case. Opiates, which include prescription pain relievers and heroin, were found more often than any other type of drug in 29 of the 32 metropolitan areas and all of the 6 states. Cocaine was the most frequently reported drug in 3 metropolitan areas and was in the top five drugs in 28 metropolitan areas and all 6 states. Alcohol was one of the five most common drugs in 30 of the 32 metropolitan areas and 5 of 6 states.

The report indicates that stimulants—reported as either methamphetamine or amphetamines—appeared in the top five drugs in 5 metropolitan areas: Minneapolis-St. Paul; Ogden-Clearfield, Utah; Phoenix; San Diego; and San Francisco.

Other common drugs in drug misuse deaths were prescription antidepressants and benzodiazepines, which are anti-anxiety medications.

Drug-related suicide deaths were much less frequent than deaths involving drug misuse. On average, less than 20 percent of drug-related suicides involved an illicit drug. Alcohol was among the five most common drugs in drug-related suicides in all but 1 of the 32 metropolitan areas and 5 of the 6 states.

For more information, visit SAMHSA's DAWN Web site at www.dawninfo.samhsa.govEnd of Article

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New DAWN logo

Drug Misuse Deaths

In the 9 metropolitan areas with full participation, fatality rates ranged from 56 to 206 drug misuse deaths per million population.

chart from the Drug Abuse Warning Network - DAWN - that shows drug misuse deaths in 9 metropolitan areas - Click to view text only versiond

Source: SAMHSA's Office of Applied Studies. Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2003: Area Profiles of Drug-Related Mortality, DAWN Series D-27. Rockville, MD, 2005.

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SAMHSA News - July/August 2005, Volume 13, Number 4

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