Background and Objectives: Mortality from substance misuse has a constantly changing pattern, with notable rising trends in certain regions of the country. In particular, Camden County, New Jersey has historically struggled with this problem. Because of its inclusion of Camden City, with its high poverty rate and high availability of illicit drugs, and the broader regional impact of the economic recession, analysis of substance misuse-related death in this population might facilitate understanding of these contributory factors in the development and maintenance of addiction and resulting mortality.
Methods: Mortality and population data were obtained from public sources (N=516). Subjects’ demographic information and substance profile found at death were investigated for regression and trend analysis.
Results: Across the study period, an overwhelming majority of subjects were white adult males. Opiate derivatives were the highest offending agent, occurring in 83.7% of deaths, followed by stimulants (50.3%) and benzodiazepines (38.4%). Furthermore, 24.4% of subjects were found to have 3 or more substances at death. No significant trends were found in mortality rates, but Camden County had significantly higher rates of drug mortality than the rest of New Jersey for the study period.
Conclusions and Scientific Significance: This study highlights the opiate epidemic as a major player in Camden County, but also notes significant mortality contributions from stimulant drugs and benzodiazepines in the setting of polysubstance use elicited at the time of death. It is imperative to focus on basic needs (particularly housing) and outpatient long-term programs, rather than inpatient rehabilitation, especially in a population with high poverty rate.
*Cooper Medical School of Rowan University
‡Department of Psychiatry, Cooper University Hospital, Camden
†Camden County Department of Health and Human Services, Blackwood, NJ
Preliminary results of this study were presented in poster form at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Reprints: Karim Sedky, MD, MSc, 401 Haddon Field Ave., Department of Psychiatry, Suite 346, Camden, NJ 08103 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).