Shooting Up Triples Death Risk

New users of illegal injection drugs face hike in death risk early on, study finds

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THURSDAY, Aug. 19, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- There's no 'grace period' when it comes to use of injection drugs like heroin or cocaine: A new study in Addiction finds teenage and young adult users triple their risk for death soon after taking up the habit.

The study, led by the New York Academy of Medicine, is the first to show an increased risk of death soon after people start to use illegal injection drugs. New users are defined as people who have been injecting for two years or less.

"There is no window of safety," principal investigator David Vlahov, director of the Academy Center for Urban Epidemiological Studies, said in a prepared statement.

"When adolescents and young adults start to inject, they may think that death risk applies only to older, longer-term 'broken down' drug users. But they face dangerous consequences from the start," Vlahov said.

He and his colleagues recruited 256 new injection drug users, median age 30, in Baltimore in 1988-89 and tracked them for 12 years. After three years, these new users faced a death risk three times higher than normal for people of the same age, race and gender. That death risk increased to eight times higher by the end of 10 years of using injection drugs.

Overdose, AIDS, heart disease, firearms and medical complications of drug use were among the causes of death.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about heroin.

SOURCE: New York Academy of Medicine, news release, August 2004

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