Psychiatric severity and mortality in substance abusers - A 15-year follow-up of drug users

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Previous research has shown that most transitions into abstinence happens in the stages of the drug career quickly after the first treatment episode. Mortality is somewhat reduced for patients who become abstinent, but remains high for patients who remain addicted. However, even among substance abusers who become abstinent, mortality is often higher than in the general population. A consecutive sample of drug users admitted for detoxification was followed for 15 years. Face-to-face interviews were conducted at 5-year follow-up. At 15-year follow-up, 24% were dead. Cox proportional hazard regression was conducted to predict mortality for continuous variables, and Gehan's Wilcoxon test was used to predict mortality for dichotomous variables. Psychiatric status at 5-year follow-up was predictive of 15-year mortality, whereas abstinence was not. Subjects who later died had higher scores on the Symptom Checklist 90 [SCL-90] Global Severity Index, lower meaningfulness on the Sense of Coherence scale, and lower Global Assessment of Functioning [GAF] scores at 5-year follow-up. By contrast, there were no associations between baseline drug use and antisocial personality disorder diagnoses and mortality. Psychiatric treatment, including psychotherapy, may be more life-saving for substance abusers than drug-abuse services. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology


  • addiction, psychiatric symptoms, mortality
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-565
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Publication categoryResearch