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Monday, April 30, 2012

More Bad News for Methamphetamine Abusers: Increased Risk for Death

The study reviewed records of nearly 820,000 people in California who during hospitalization were diagnosed as abusers or dependent upon alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine, or opioids, within the 16-year period from January 1990 through December 2005.  Death records also were reviewed during this period.  For subjects who died within the study period, the average duration between index hospitalization and death ranged from 7.4 – 10.7 years, with mean duration for methamphetamine abusers of 8.5 years (4122 deaths).  The study did not include polydrug abusers (who were diagnosed as abusing more than one substance).
Standardized mortality rates (SMRs), adjusted for age and for racial and sex differences in substance abuse and death rates, were calculated for each abused substance.  The SMR for methamphetamine abusers was 4.67, meaning that the risk for death was nearly 5-fold that in the general population.  This SMR exceeded SMRs for alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis abusers, and only was exceeded by the SMR for opioid abuse which was 5.71 (nearly 6-fold the death rate in the general population).
The authors noted that their study provides the first data from a large US cohort documenting the SMR in methamphetamine abusers, and suggests that additional steps should be taken to reduce the death rate in this group.
Graphic evidence of the ravages of methamphetamine abuse can be found in the story of Shawn Bridges, a methamphetamine abuser who died in 2007 at age 35.  Shawn recorded some of his struggles in hopes that others might not share his fate.
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