To (1) assess trends in the number and mortality rates of methamphetamine-related death in Australia, 2009–15; (2) assess the characteristics and the cause, manner and circumstances of death; and (3) assess the blood methamphetamine concentrations and the presence of other drugs in methamphetamine-related death.
Analysis of cases of methamphetamine-related death retrieved from the National Coronial Information System (NCIS).
All cases in which methamphetamine was coded in the NCIS database as a mechanism contributing to death (n = 1649).
Information was collected on cause and manner of death, demographics, location, circumstances of death and toxicology.
The mean age of cases was 36.9 years, and 78.4% were male. The crude mortality rate was 1.03 per 100 000. The rate increased significantly over time (P < 0.001), and at 2015 the mortality rate was 1.8 [confidence interval (CI) = 1.2–2.4] times that of 2009. Deaths were due to accidental drug toxicity (43.2%), natural disease (22.3%), suicide (18.2%), other accident (14.9%) and homicide (1.5%). In 40.8% of cases, death occurred outside the major capital cities. The median blood methamphetamine concentration was 0.17 mg/l, and cases in which only methamphetamine was detected had higher concentrations than other cases (0.30 versus 0.15 mg/l, P < 0.001). The median blood methamphetamine concentration varied within a narrow range (0.15–0.20 mg/l) across manner of death. In the majority (82.8%) of cases, substances other than methamphetamine were detected, most frequently opioids (43.1%) and hypnosedatives (38.0%).
Methamphetamine death rates doubled in Australia from 2009 to 2015. While toxicity was the most frequent cause, natural disease, suicide and accident comprised more than half of deaths.