Illicit drug use in middle age could increase risk of premature death

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 13, 2012

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Healthy middle-age adults who use illicit drugs occasionally, such as on weekends, are more likely to die prematurely than people who never use the substances, said a study published online Jan. 25 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The study looked at illicit drug use of amphetamines, cocaine and opioids. Researchers examined data on 4,301 healthy adults who were 18 to 30 when they enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study in 1985. That study followed participants from 1987 through 2008 and included physical exams in which individuals were asked about their use of amphetamines, cocaine and opioids. Individuals' drug use was assessed from 1987 to 2006.

The journal study found that 14% of all participants reported using at least one of the drugs in the past 30 days. Half of those people continued taking the substances into middle age (link).

By Dec. 31, 2008, 5% of participants had died. The percentage was greatest (8%) among people who were defined as persistent occasional drug users. Such individuals had infrequent drug use that persisted or increased in middle age.

The fewest deaths (3%) occurred among individuals who had not used the studied drugs in the past 30 days. The study's authors encourage primary care physicians to talk to their middle-age, drug-using patients about their elevated risk of premature death.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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