(HealthDay News) – The occasional use of hard drugs in middle age is linked to significantly increased risk of all-cause mortality, according to a study published online January 25 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Stefan G. Kertesz, M.D., of the Birmingham VA Medical Center in Alabama, and associates described trajectories of cocaine, amphetamines, and opiate use among adults in community settings, and their association with all-cause mortality. A cohort of 4,301 adults was assessed for drug use from 1987-88 to 2005-06.

The researchers identified four trajectories: nonusers, early occasional users, persistent occasional users, and early frequent/later occasional users. These trajectories correlated with anticipated patterns of demographics, other substance use, education, and family background. Early frequent/later occasional users had significantly increased all-cause mortality (hazard ratio, 4.94; P=0.006), after adjusting for demographics, baseline health status, health behaviors, and psychosocial characteristics.

“The positive association found between drug use and all-cause mortality is not likely one of direct cause and effect,” the authors write. “We speculate that continuing adult drug use signifies complex patterns of vulnerability or behavior that contribute to mortality in ways not captured by our models.”

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