Study Analyzes Risk Of Death With Drug Use

Connie K. Ho for

A recent study at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Canada found that those who are addicted to opioids have a higher risk of death than those who are addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Opioid, a psychoactive chemical, increases a person´s risk of death by 5.71 percent. The next highest disorders include addicts of methamphetamine (4.67 percent), cannabis (3.85 percent), alcohol (3.83 percent), and cocaine (2.96 percent).

The study, released in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, is the largest research project that compares mortality rates among different drug users along with the longest follow-up. More than 800,000 individuals participated in the study between 1990 and 2005; during this time, more than 188,000 patients in this group died.

“One reason for undertaking this study was to examine whether methamphetamine posed a particular threat to drug users, as it has been called ‘America’s most dangerous drug,'” commented CAMH Scientist and lead researcher Dr. Russell Callaghan in a prepared statement. “The risk is high, but opioids are associated with a higher risk. We also wanted to compare mortality risks among several major drugs of abuse, as this comparison hasn’t been done on this scale before.”

His research showed a number of shocking results. 166,482 deaths and 582,771 hospitalizations were related to alcohol dependence. 4,122 deaths out of 74,139 hospitalizations were the result of methamphetamine use. 12,196 deaths out of 67,104 hospitalizations resulted from opioids.

Since specific causes of mortality were not originally found, researchers are returning to explore mortality causes for each drug group.

“These are not occasional, recreational drug users, but people who have been hospitalized for drug dependence,” remarked co-author Dr. Stephen Kish, Senior Scientist at CAMH, in the statement.

To calculate the mortality rate in each drug group, the researchers looked at the hospital records of all California inpatients that were diagnosed with methamphetamine, alcohol, opioid, cannabis or cocaine-related disorders from 1990 to 2005. They then utilized the California Vitals Statistics Database to match death records with inpatient records. Ultimately, the study shows the importance of intervention for those who are hospitalized for drug use.