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Keywords:

  • abuse;
  • drug addiction;
  • amphetamine;
  • drug career;
  • longitudinal study;
  • mortality;
  • opiates;
  • suicide;
  • violent death

ABSTRACT— A sample of 524 young drug addicts consecutively treated at a special hospital ward has been followed by registers for an average of 10 years. A total of 62 were found to have died drug-related deaths at an average age of 28 years; 19 of them had committed suicide. Representativeness of the sample is investigated. Sex and choice of drugs were predictive factors behind fatal outcome: male opiate addicts died 5.4 times and male amphetamine abusers 2.5 times as often as expected. The males were exposed to greater risk than the females. Those who committed suicide had an hereditary disposition for mental disturbances, especially affective disorders. Lethal substances proved to be opiates, barbiturates and alcohol and/or other psychotropic preparations. Signs of heart disease were often found in the overdose cases. Most of the addicts who died were in a compulsive stage of the drug career, but some were abstaining or trying to abstain from drugs. A critical period seems to be at 26-28 years of age, a period when the abuse seems to be most intense and compulsive, the suicide risk is high and the efforts to abstain from drugs most serious and hazardous.