According to the EMCDDA 2019 publication, the EU reported over 8,200 DOA-related deaths in 2017 alone. A vast majority of these were premature, the affected population being people in their 30s or 40s. In most cases, multiple drug toxicity was involved and studies reported that high-risk drug users are 3 to 7 times more likely to die than their age and gender peers in the respective population.
While the most frequently reported causes of death were overdoses, HIV/ADS, liver and respiratory disease, and cancer – among others –, the number of ODs was also probably much higher. The estimated number of overdose deaths was 8,283, but due to the severe limitations of DOA-induced deaths data and the lack of comprehensive monitoring, it was most likely underestimated.
In France, for example, there is a national system of surveillance based on emergency departments. The relevant data is collected through direct extraction from electronic medical records. This source of information provides the advantage of timeliness and early warning capability.
Handheld DOA analyzers are also important means of detection and/or early warning, as they play a relevant part in drug screening, but also in emergency drug testing. Used by hospitals and law enforcement alike, they indicate crisis situations before these can add to the statistical number of preventable deaths.