Volume 26, Issue 4 (October 1981)
Propoxyphene in Postmortem Toxicology 1976–1978
A total of 1859 cases provides the basis for this study in which propoxyphene, and often its major metabolite, was demonstrated by toxicological analysis in the blood or tissues of the deceased at 27 medical examiner or coroner's offices across the United States and Canada. The study period includes the last five months of 1975 through December 1978. The cases describe a clearly defined adult population with a marked tendency toward hypochondria, chronic minor illness, and severe psychiatric problems. The high proportion of suicides (44.1% of the total cases and 54.0% of the drug-caused deaths) and multiple-drug toxicities (88.6%) suggests that the involvement of propoxyphene in many of these fatalities may be of less significance than the phenomenon of “polypharmacy” and self-medication without appropriate medical supervision. This evaluation of propoxyphene provides no evidence that propoxyphene is responsible for “street-drug” fatalities. Its appearance in postmortem toxicological examinations has been declining sharply since 1977, but it continues to be dangerous when used excessively, particularly in combination with alcohol and other central nervous system depressant drugs.