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Drug Abuse Adds to Scotland's Excess Mortality

Difference between England and Scotland's mortality rates partly explained by drug deaths

WEDNESDAY, July 23 (HealthDay News) -- One-third of the excess mortality rate in Scotland versus England is due to drug-related deaths, according to a study published online July 22 in BMJ.

Michael Bloor, Ph.D., of the University of Glasgow in Glasgow, U.K., and colleagues conducted a study of 1,033 drug users recruited from 33 drug treatment facilities in Scotland who were followed-up for 33 months.

Of the 38 deaths in the study cohort, 22 were classified as drug-related, the researchers report. The authors estimate that drug-related deaths account for 17.3 percent of all deaths in Scotland, versus 11.1 percent in England, and that 32 percent of excess mortality in Scotland is accounted for by drug use. If drug-related deaths are excluded from the data, the standardized mortality at ages 15 to 54 years would fall from 196 to 162 per 100,000 in Scotland and 138 to 122 per 100,000 in England.

"Although problem drug use is a low prevalence risk behavior, it carries a high mortality; the standardized mortality ratio for Scottish drug users is 12 times as high as for the general population," the authors write. "Successful public health efforts to reduce the prevalence of problem drug use in Scotland or deaths in Scottish drug users would have a dramatic impact on overall mortality in Scotland."

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