SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND TREATMENT
Lethal Consequences of Heroin Addiction
By Lauren Gilmore
Drs. Hser, Hoffman, Grella, and Anglin at the Drug
Abuse Research Center of UCLA, conducted a study which consisted
of 581 male subjects who were both heroin addicts and criminal
offenders. These subjects were first recruited for the study between
the years 1962 and 1964, from a substance rehabilitation program.
The researchers were interested in investigating long-term physical
and behavioral, negative effects of heroin dependency. In the
year 1997, follow-ups were executed and the results were rather
disturbing. According to the statistics, 49 percent of the original
participants, 284 to be exact, were deceased. The 40 percent that
were still living admitted to abusing heroin within the past 12
months, and less than 10 percent of the original participants
were currently seeking methadone treatment.
When studying the death rates among men in the same
age range, the heroin abusers' rate was 50 to 100 times more than
the general population. Dr. Hser claims this is attributed to
long-term addiction, as well as other obvious consequences such
as physical problems, high arrest rates, and defiant behavior.
When examining the causes of death, researchers found that the
most common cause was drug overdose, which made up 21.6 percent.
19.5 percent died from a combination of homicide, suicide, or
accidental death. Other causes included liver disease accounting
for 15.2 percent, cancer at 11.7 percent, and cardiovascular disease
at 11.7 percent as well.
Interviews conducted in 1996 and 1997 concluded
that 135 (55.8-percent) participants of the 242 that survived
had abstained from using. Fifty (20.7-percent) were current users,
and 23 (9.5-percent) refused urinalysis testing. Thirty-four participants
that were in jail during the interviewing session. Dr. Hser reports
that in any given year while the study was being conducted, approximately
10 percent of the participants were in treatment. Some were able
to maintain abstinence, however, less than five percent achieved
sobriety for a period of five years. Those who abstained for more
than five years, fewer health and legal problems were reported
and the majority of them were employed.
The participants in this study were all recruited
from a corrections facility; therefore, the possibility of bias
is evident. Despite the fact that the statistics may not accurately
represent the general population, patterns exist. Many negative
consequences, some lethal, result from chronic heroin use. Financial,
legal, and medical problems are common among long-term users.
In addition, the recovery rates for those attempt treatment are
very low. Heroin is a powerful drug to overcome and most addicts
end up relapsing numerous times. Researchers will continue to
focus attention on addictive diseases in the hope that more preventative
measures and successful treatments will result.
(Hser, Y-I; Hoffman, V.; Grella, C.E.; and Anglin, M.D. A 33-year
follow-up of narcotics addicts. Archives of General Psychiatry
The Maternal Substance Abuse and Child Development Project is funded in part by the Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Public Health.
The Maternal Substance Abuse and Child Development
Study is under the direction of Claire D. Coles Ph.D., with the
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Emory University
School of Medicine. For more information, please contact: Claire
D. Coles: firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen K. Howell: email@example.com