Drug cocktails leading to more deaths, says survey

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 July, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2000, 12:00am

Drug-related deaths have risen sharply in recent years due to accidental overdoses and experimentation with drug cocktails, a government survey has indicated.

The study, conducted by the Chinese University on behalf of the Action Committee Against Narcotics, found that there were 640 drug-related deaths during 1998 and 1999, an average of 320 a year, compared with the annual average of 150 to 200 between 1989 and 1995, based on Coroner's Court data. The figure was 313 in 1997.

The study found that the risk of accidental overdose was greatly increased by combining heroin with alcohol and Midazolam (a tranquilliser).

Of the 320 drug-related deaths in 1998, 71 per cent were associated with multiple drug use. Most of the deaths (83 per cent) were heroin-injecting men aged between 25 and 44. About one-third had a record of drug rehabilitation.

The study showed the rise was mainly due to a threefold increase in accidental overdoses since 1992.

The narcotics division said more consideration would be given to harm-reduction measures for drug abusers at treatment centres and prisons.

'It is hoped that educating drug abusers at these institutions on the risk of overdose and the danger of multi-drug injections, including the combination of [drinking] alcohol and heroin injections, will serve to prevent such tragedies from recurring,' a spokesman for the division said.

The study took 15 months to complete.

Official figures show that drug abuse over recent years has remained relatively stable, but addicts' help groups say government figures do not reflect the true situation.

Heroin remains the main drug used in Hong Kong.