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
This is the first time there has been any state information from
Six states provided mortality data to DAWNMaine, 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
"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
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 DAWNthe
result of a major redesignso 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
"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
The report indicates that stimulantsreported as either methamphetamine
or amphetaminesappeared 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.gov.
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Drug Misuse Deaths
In the 9 metropolitan areas with full participation,
fatality rates ranged from 56 to 206 drug misuse
deaths per million population.
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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