In Brief: Why drug addicts die

In Brief

Why drug addicts die

Published: September, 2006

It may not usually be the drugs, a Swedish study suggests. Young adults who are treated for drug abuse and addiction have a high death rate, and that might be expected to result from drug-induced overdoses, disease, violence, and accidents. But the study suggests that mortality in young drug abusers is associated more with psychiatric symptoms and mental illness than with drug abuse itself.

Researchers followed 125 addicts (mostly users of opiates and amphetamine) who were admitted to a rehabilitation facility in 1988 and 1989. Five years later, they answered a questionnaire and were interviewed about depression and anxiety, personality disorders, overall quality of life, and social functioning. At that time, about 40% had been abstinent (no illicit drug use and no alcohol abuse) for at least six months.

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