Opioid poisoning and availability of specialized medical care in Ontario, 2002-2006
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The prescription of opioid analgesics has risen sharply in North America over the past two decades. This increase has been accompanied by a rise in overdoses. The present study draws on administrative data collected from emergency department contacts to describe the epidemiology of opioid overdose in Ontario b~tween 2002 and 2006 and to examine the role of regional variation in availability of specialist care. The number of poisonings increased from 1250 (10.9 per 100,000) in FY2002 to 1816 (15.2 per 100,000) in FY2005. Local concentration of specialist physicians was significantly associated with the incidence of opioid overdose, inversely at most levels of availability, but positively at very high levels. Regional variation in incidence was also associated with demographics, median family income, and the rate of other drug poisonings. Policy options for limiting opioid-related harms are limited, but improvements in monitoring and clinical management may prove valuable.