Drug-Related Mortality, Arizona, 1986-1996
This report was prepared by Christopher K. Mrela, Ph.D., Assistant Registrar of Vital Statistics
This section presents some illustrative findings contained in the figures and tables of the report. It is not intended to be an exhaustive analysis of the tabulated data.
It is impossible to determine how accurately the reported number of drug-related deaths reflects the true incidence of mortality from drug abuse/dependence. Some reasons for underreporting are: 1) social and family pressures to avoid stigmatization and 2) incomplete information at the time of death about the decedent's history of drug use. For these reasons drug dependence and drug abuse may not be given as the cause of death; instead another, less accurate category of underlying cause (e.g. unintentional drug misuse) is used.
- From 1986 to 1996, 2,873 Arizona residents died from drug poisoning in various circumstances. In the six years from 1986 to 1991 there were 1,134 deaths, or an average number of 189 deaths per year. In the five years from 1992 to 1996, there were 1,739 drug-related deaths, and the annual average number of deaths of about 348 was 84 percent higher than during the previous, much longer period (the number of drug-related deaths by year is given in Table 1). This increase may reflect either improved reporting or a true increase in incidence, or both.
- The age-adjusted rate of death from drug poisoning due to all reported circumstances decreased slightly from 9.2 drug-related deaths per 100,000 Arizona residents in 1995, to 8.8/100,000 in 1996. It was the second highest rate of the 1986-1996 period (Table 2).
- The rate of deaths from reported adverse effects and accidents in the use of drugs was 3.1 times higher in 1996 (6.2/100,000) as compared to the 1986-1987 rates of 2.0/100,000, whereas the rate of deaths from drug dependence and abuse was similar to the rate seen in 1995 (Figure 1, Table 2).
- Psychostimulants (such as amphetamine) and opiates accounted for an unprecedented share of all fatal overdoses in the 1993-1996 period (Figure 2). The number of deaths due to accidental overdose of amphetamines increased from 5 deaths/year in 1986-92 to an average annual number of more than 16 deaths/year in 1993-96 (Figure 2, Table 2). In 1996, 82 deaths had morphine type drug reported as the agent compared to 94 deaths in 1995, and 13 deaths in both 1986 and 1987 (Table 3).
- Since 1989, annual mortality rates for cocaine and morphine type drugs combined have consistently exceeded the rates of death due to poisoning by barbiturates, tranquilizers and other psychotropic agents (Table 4). The 1996 rate of deaths from morphine type drugs (1.9/100,000) was the second highest of the eleven-year period (Table 4).
- Black residents of Arizona had in 1996 the highest rate of drug-related death (13.0/100,000), exceeding the corresponding rates for non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics and American Indians by at least 38 percent (Figure 3, Table 8).
- The 1996 rate of deaths from drug dependence, abuse and misuse among Blacks (12.3/100,000) was 2.6 times greater than that of American Indians (4.7/100,000; Figure 4, Table 8). In contrast, non-Hispanic whites had the highest rate of death for suicidal poisoning by drugs (Table 8).
- Cocaine-type drugs were responsible for 45 percent of drug-related deaths among Blacks. The 1996 rate of cocaine-related deaths among Blacks (5.8/100,000) was 9.7 times greater than that of non-Hispanic whites (0.6/100,000). There were no cocaine-related deaths among American Indians in Arizona in 1996 (Figure 5, Table 8).
- Morphine type drugs (heroin, methadone, opium and combination of morphine with any other drug) were responsible for the majority of drug-related deaths among non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics and American Indians (Figure 5, Table 8).
- In 1996, there 3 drug-related deaths among adolescents 15-19 years old, all of them non-Hispanic whites (Table 9).
- Among persons aged 20-44 years (Figure 6, Table 8), Black residents of Arizona in 1996 were 36 percent more likely to have been victims of fatal drug poisoning (23.9/100, 000) compared with the overall risk of 17.6 for all ethnic groups. Among Arizonans 45-64 years old, the overall risk of drug-related death was 2 times greater for Blacks than their Hispanic peers (18.2 vs. 8.9, Figure 6, Table 8).
- The 1996 rate of drug-related deaths among males (13.4/100,000) was 2.9 times greater than the rate of 4.7/100,000 for females (Figure 7, Table 14). The rate of deaths from drug dependence and abuse was 2.7 times greater among males (1.6/100,000) than females (0.6/100,000). The male mortality rate from cocaine and morphine combined was 6.7 times higher than respective female rate (Figure 8, Table 15).
- Males, who accounted for 74.2 percent of all drug-related deaths in 1996 had an even greater proportional representation among reported deaths from accidental drug misuse (81.2 percent). Their share of cocaine/morphine-related deaths was 86.7 percent.
- Sixty-five out of every 100 drug-related deaths in 1996 were to unmarried Arizona residents (Table 16, Table 17). The unmarried residents accounted for 67 percent of deaths due to drug dependence and abuse, 71 percent of all suicides by drugs and 74 percent of all cocaine-related deaths.
- Eighty-eight percent of deaths in 1996 attributed to drug abuse or dependence were young adults 20-44 years old. In contrast, young adults accounted for a smaller share (55 percent, or 31 out of 56, Table 10) of drug-related suicides. Drug-related deaths in which cocaine or morphine were reported as the agent were overwhelmingly (77 percent, or 92 out of 120 deaths in 1996) a young adult phenomenon (Table 11).
- In 1996, residents of the urban regions of the State (Maricopa, Pima, Pinal and Yuma counties) accounted for 90 percent of deaths in which cocaine or morphine were reported as the agent (Table 12).
- Graham County ranked first among the 15 Arizona counties in drug-related mortality with the 1996 rate of 20.8/100,000, 9.5 times higher than the lowest rate of 2.2/100,000 in Apache County (Figure 9, Table 18). There were drug-related deaths among the resident of Greenlee County in 1996.
- One of the objectives set by the U.S. Public Health Service for the year 2000 is that the rate of drug-related deaths should be reduced to 3.3/100,000. Arizona residents were much closer to this proposed objective in 1990 than they were in 1995or 1996 (Table 2). In 1990, the age-adjusted drug-related mortality rate (4.6/100,000) for Arizonans exceeded the year 2000 national objective by 40 percent. In 1996, the Arizona rate of drug-related deaths exceeded the year 2000 target rate by 167 percent.
Public Health Services
Office of Health Planning, Evaluation and Statistics
Arizona Center for Health Statistics
Phone: 602/542-7333; FAX: 602/542-1244