Cases of opioid poisoning and sales of these analgesics have increased significantly in Switzerland over the past twenty years. The number of calls to Tox Info has tripled. This is the result of a study by ETHZ researchers.
“Our study clearly shows that the consumption of opioids in Switzerland is increasing rapidly,” said Andrea Burden, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), on Monday. The study was published in
Sales in Switzerland increased at about the same rate as in the Netherlands and Denmark. However, according to Andrea Burden, per capita sales in Switzerland have been “significantly higher in recent years”. Between 2000 and 2019, 911 calls for opioid poisoning increased by 177%. At the same time, sales of these painkillers increased by 91%.
situation to observe
According to the researchers, the use of opioids in Switzerland has not reached the epidemic proportions observed in the USA. However, the situation needs to be monitored. To avoid an epidemic, surveillance is necessary.
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The largest increases in consumption in Switzerland relate to strong opioids, in particular oxycodone, one of the drivers of the opioid crisis in the USA. The sale of this powerful painkiller “increased sharply” in Switzerland between 2009 and 2016.
The most frequently reported and sold opioid in Switzerland in 2019 was tramadol, a low-potency painkiller. Next come oxycodone and fentanyl, two powerful opioids.
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Illegal consumption and overdose
The study says almost nothing about the illegal use of fentanyl, since cases of severe poisoning are almost never reported to Tox Info. Affected people contact the emergency services directly. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin. According to ETHZ researchers, this painkiller has a high potential for illegal consumption and fatal overdoses.
“The numbers presented in the study are just the tip of the iceberg,” says Andrea Burden. “We desperately need more data to understand the harms associated with opioid use in Switzerland, including the number of people who became dependent on prescription and the number of opioid-related deaths.” A follow-up study is planned.