Aims. To ascertain the causes of deaths among a very large cohort of heroin injecting drug users (IDUs) who, from 1985 to 1998, attended 36 Public Health Authority Centres for Drug Users (PCDUs) in north-eastern Italy. Design. Retrospective analysis of data, obtained from the Annual Register of each Centre and the Municipal Registry Office of each local health district. Setting. Thirty-six PCDUs in north-eastern Italy and Medical Service for Addictive Disorders of the University of Verona. Participants. All IDUs who had sought medical care at least once in the PCDUs during the study period. Findings. Of 2708 deaths, overdose was found to be the major cause ('37%), followed by AIDS (32.5%) and road accidents (9.4%). The percentage of deaths due to AIDS increased steadily from 2.7% in 1985 to 42.2% in 1996, and then decreased to 16.9% in 1998. Deaths due to overdose remained ahnost constant. The average age of death per year rose from 26 in the mid eighties to 34 in 1998. The mortality rate among IDUs proved much higher compared to the general population of the same age (13-fold, 95% CI, 11.3-14.6). The proportion of all deaths attributable to regular use of illegal opiates in the 15-34 age group in the general population in 1991 was 16%. HIV prevalence was nota significant factor in suicides and deaths by overdose. Conclusions. The mortality rate was 13 rimes greater than in the general population. To be female and to have dropped out of any kind of treatment proved an important risk factor for overdose. The fall in deaths from AIDS enhances the problem to prevent and treat HC V infection. Decisions in drug projects, in research and in training should be influenced by the strikingly high percentage of deaths due to drug use.
|Number of pages||11|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jan 2001|