To outline the recent features of methamphetamine-related fatalities from the medico-legal point of view, a retrospective investigation of forensic autopsy cases involving methamphetamine during a 5-year period (1994-1998) in the southern half of Osaka city and surrounding areas (about 1.57 million population) was undertaken. Among 646 autopsy cases, methamphetamine was detected in 15 victims (nine males, six females; 16-71 years of age; most frequently in males in their thirties). Primary scenes of fatal events were concentrated in the middle of the city. About half of them were transfered from emergency medical centers (survival time, up to 30 h). The cause and manner of death were: methamphetamine poisoning (n=4), homicide (n=4), accidental falls and aspiration from drug abuse (n=4), fire death (n=1), myocardial infarction (n=1), and cerebral hemorrhage (n=1) under drug influence. Usually injection scars and fresh puncture sites were found. Blood methamphetamine concentrations were 2.29-17.05 μmol/dl in the fatal poisoning, 0.44-3.80 μmol/dl in deaths from other extrinsic causes (trauma), and 1.35-2.17 μmol/dl in cardio- and cerebrovascular strokes. Common complications were cardiomyopathy, cerebral perivasculitis and liver cirrhosis/interstitial hepatitis. Fatal and nonfatal methamphetamine poisonings are separately dealt with by the administrative medical examiner's office and in emergency medical centers. Tightly cooperative approaches of clinical and medico-legal experts are required for the effective social and medical management of drug abuse. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.
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