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Public Health Rep. 1993 Sep-Oct;108(5):565-70.

Mortality attributed to misuse of psychoactive drugs, 1979-88.

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Division of Epidemiology and Surveillance, Food and Drug Administration, Rockville, MD 20857.


To assess mortality attributed to misuse of psychoactive drugs in the United States from 1979 through 1988, the authors obtained from death certificates the annual number of, and age-, sex-, and race-specific data for, deaths in which psychoactive drugs were coded as the underlying or contributing cause. Deaths with psychoactive drugs specified as underlying cause (drug-induced) increased from 6,500 (2.9 per 100,000) in 1979 to more than 10,000 (3.8 per 100,000) in 1988. Deaths with psychoactive drugs specified as either underlying or contributing cause (drug-related) increased from 7,200 (3.2 per 100,000) in 1979 to more than 14,400 (5.5 per 100,000) in 1988. The drugs that primarily accounted for this increase were illicit, in particular, the opiates (heroin) and cocaine, with most of the remainder accounted for by misuse of various legal drugs. The largest increases between 1979 and 1988 occurred among black men ages 35-44 whose drug-induced death rates rose from 8 to 36 per 100,000 and whose drug-related death rates from 10 to 82 per 100,000. These data identify a high-risk group for targeting efforts to prevent deaths due to misuse of psychoactive drugs.

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