Volume 48, Issue 2 (March 2003)
Postmortem Oxycodone and Hydrocodone Blood Concentrations
There is limited data on postmortem oxycodone concentrations, consisting of three published reports with a total of 11 cases, many of which were polypharmacy cases. This report presents the results of a review of autopsy and coroner's reports from 10 counties for the years 2000 and 2001 to locate cases with oxycodone or hydrocodone exposure as a leading cause of death. Eighty-eight cases were located. Twenty-four deaths were attributed to oxycodone alone. Mean and median postmortem oxycodone blood concentrations were 1.23 mg/L and 0.43 mg/L, respectively. The range was 0.12 to 8.0 mg/L, with 13 cases (54%) ⩽0.5/L. Seventeen deaths were attributed to hydrocodone alone. Mean and median postmortem hydrocodone blood concentrations were 0.53 mg/L and 0.40 mg/L, respectively. The range was 0.12 to 1.6 mg/L, with 11 cases (65%) ⩽0.5/L. There were seven cases where the cause of death was attributed to the effects of a combination of hydrocodone and oxycodone. Mean oxycodone and hydrocodone blood concentrations were 0.34 mg/L and 0.14 mg/L, respectively. Forty cases involved polysubstance overdoses with significant involvement of other drugs and ethanol. Mean oxycodone and hydrocodone blood concentrations were 0.18 mg/L and 0.29 mg/L, respectively. The list of other substances involved was extensive but included ethanol, amitriptyline, methadone, codeine, propoxyphene, and acetaminophen. The findings of this study report oxycodone values associated with a fatality at blood concentrations lower than previously reported. This may represent enhanced information because of the larger sample group. Hydrocodone values associated with a fatality were similar to previously published values.