Background: Drug addiction is associated with significant disease and death, but its impact on the ageing process has not been considered. The recent demonstration that many of the items available in routine clinical pathology have applicability as biomarkers of the ageing process implies that routine clinical laboratory parameters would be useful as an initial investigation of this possibility.
Methods: 12,093 clinical laboratory results 1995-2006 were reviewed. To make the age ranges of the medical and addicted groups comparable the age range was restricted to 15-45 years.
Results: 739 drug addicted (DA) and 5834 general medical (GM) age matched blood samples were compared. Significant elevation of immune parameters was noted in the C-reactive protein, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, total lymphocyte count, serum globulins and the globulin:albumin ratio (P < 0.01). Alanine aminotranferase, creatinine, urea, and insulin like growth factor-1 were also significantly higher (P < 0.01) in the DA group. Albumin, body mass index and dihydroepiandrosterone sulphate were unchanged and cholesterol was lower (all P < 0.05).
Conclusion: These data demonstrate for the first time that addiction is associated with an altered profile of common biomarkers of ageing raising the possibility that the ageing process may be altered in this group. Infective and immune processes may be centrally involved. They suggest that addiction forms an interesting model to further examine the contribution of immune suppression and hyperstimulation to the ageing process.