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Opioids associated with highest risk of death
Date:4/17/2012

For Immediate Release April 17, 2012 - (Toronto) People with an opioid addiction had the highest risk of death when compared with rates for alcohol and other drugs, according to a new study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

For those dependent on opioids, the risk of death was 5.71 times higher than healthy individuals in the population of the same age, gender and race. Those with methamphetamine use disorders were next highest with a 4.67-fold risk, followed by those with addictions to cannabis (3.85), alcohol (3.83) and cocaine (2.96). Alcohol dependence was related to the highest number of deaths overall.

The study, available online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, is the largest North American study to compare mortality rates among different drug users with the longest follow-up. It tracked records of more than 800,000 individuals hospitalized with drug dependence between 1990 and 2005. Of this group, more than 188,000 died during this period.

The findings mean that if 10 individuals in the general population died, then over the same period there would be 57 deaths among people dependent on opioids, which includes prescription opioids as well as heroin.

"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,'" says CAMH Scientist Dr. Russell Callaghan, who led the study. Globally, methamphetamine and similar stimulants are the second most commonly used class of illicit drugs.

"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."

Alcohol dependence affected the highest number of individuals, with 166,482 deaths and 582,771 hospitalizations over the study period. In the methamphetamine group, there were
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Contact: Michael Torres
media@camh.net
416-595-6015
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Source:Eurekalert

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