Understanding fatal and non-fatal drug overdose risk factors: overdose risk questionnaire pilot study—validation

Radhouene Doggui*, Keyrellous Adib, Alexander Mario Baldacchino

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Drug overdoses (fatal and non-fatal) are among the leading causes of death in population with substance use disorders. The aim of the current study was to identify risk factors for fatal and non-fatal drug overdose for predominantly opioid-dependent treatment–seeking population.

Methods: Data were collected from 640 adult patients using a self-reported 25-item Overdose Risk (OdRi) questionnaire pertaining to drug use and identified related domains. The exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was primarily used to improve the interpretability of this questionnaire. Two sets of EFA were conducted; in the first set of analysis, all items were included, while in the second set, items related to the experience of overdose were removed. Logistic regression was used for the assessment of latent factors’ association with both fatal and non-fatal overdoses.

Results: EFA suggested a three-factor solution accounting for 75 and 97% of the variance for items treated in the first and second sets of analysis, respectively. Factor 1 was common for both sets of EFA analysis, containing six items (Cronbach’s α = 0.70) focusing around “illicit drug use and lack of treatment.” In the first set of analysis, Factors 2 (Cronbach’s α = 0.60) and 3 (Cronbach’s α = 0.34) were focusing around “mental health and emotional trauma” and “chronic drug use and frequent overdose” domains, respectively. The increase of Factor 2 was found to be a risk factor for fatal drug overdose (adjusted coefficient = 1.94, p = 0.038). In the second set of analysis, Factors 2 (Cronbach’s α = 0.65) and 3 (Cronbach’s α = 0.59) as well as Factor 1 were found to be risk factors for non-fatal drug overdose ever occurring. Only Factors 1 and 3 were positively associated with non-fatal overdose (one in a past year).

Conclusion: The OdRi tool developed here could be helpful for clinical studies for the overdose risk assessment. However, integrating validated tools for mental health can probably help refining the accuracy of latent variables and the questionnaire’s consistency. Mental health and life stress appear as important predictors of both fatal and non-fatal overdoses.
Original languageEnglish
Article number693673
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2021


  • Fatal overdose
  • Exploratory factor analysis
  • Risk factors
  • Adults
  • Scotland


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