Objective: To examine premature mortality in terms of years of potential life lost (YPLL) among a cohort of long-term heroin addicts.
Method: This longitudinal, prospective study followed a cohort of 581 male heroin addicts in California for more than 33 years. In the latest follow-up conducted in 1996/97, 282 subjects (48.5%) were confirmed as deceased by death certificates. YPLL before age 65 years was calculated by causes of death. Ethnic differences in YPLL were assessed among Whites, Hispanics, and African Americans.
Results: On average, addicts in this cohort lost 18.3 years (SD=10.7) of potential life before age 65. Of the total YPLL for the cohort, 22.3% of the years lost was due to heroin overdose, 14.0% due to chronic liver disease, and 10.2% to accidents. The total YPLL and YPLL by death cause in addict cohort were significantly higher than that of US population. The YPLL among African Americans was significantly lower than that among Whites or Hispanics.
Conclusion: The YPLL among addicts was much higher than that in the national population; within the cohort, premature mortality was higher among Whites and Hispanics compared to African American addicts.