Tuesday 9 March 2010

Correlation of the Week: Cocaine overdoses and the weather

Next time you head out for a big, expensive, lairy night out, check the temperature.

Amy Bohnert, Marta Prescott, David Vlahov, Kenneth Tardiff and Sandro Galea, in their paper Ambient temperature and risk of death from accidental drug overdose in New York City, 1990-2006, published in the journal Addiction, have found that there is a significant correlation between deaths due to accidental cocaine overdose and the temperature.

Using New York City mortality data from 1990 to 2006, and temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the researchers found that accidental overdose deaths due to cocaine in NYC rose significantly when the average weekly temperature passed 24 degrees Celsius.

The study showed no difference in the number of drug overdoses when the average weekly temperature was between -10 and 24 degrees Celsius. However, above 24 degrees Celsius, there were 0.25 more drug overdoses per 1,000,000 residents per week for every two degrees increase.  For New York City, this means that at least two more people per week will die of a drug overdose for each two degree rise in temperature above 24 degrees Celsius. There were approximately 7 weeks a year between 1990 and 2006 that had an average weekly temperature of 24 or above in New York City.

Cocaine-related overdose deaths increase as the ambient temperature rises because cocaine increases the core body temperature, impairs the cardiovascular system’s ability to cool the body, and decreases the sense of heat-related discomfort that ordinarily motivates people to avoid becoming overheated. Cocaine users who become overheated (hyperthermic) can overdose on lower amounts of cocaine because their bodies are under more stress.


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