Drug-Using 50-Somethings Suffer Massive Fatalities

By McCarton Ackerman 01/31/12

Almost 10% of Americans in their 50s use drugs other than pot. They're five times likelier to die early than the rest.

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People who use hard drugs into their 50s are five times likelier to die early than those who don’t, according to new evidence. Researchers at the University of Alabama examined data from a long-term Coronary Artery Risk Development In Young Adults (CARDIA) study. The project involved 4,300 men and women from Birmingham, Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland. All were aged between 18 and 30 in 1985, and were monitored until 2006. Fourteen percent of them reported using "hard drugs" at least once, with half of them continuing well into middle age. “Most of the drug users in our study...were dabblers who just used a few days a month,” says study leader Stefan Kertesz, MD. “What we found is that middle-age adults who continue to dabble in hard drugs represent a group that is at risk of bad outcomes—which could include death from trauma, heart disease or other causes that are not a direct result of their drug use—at a higher rate than people who stopped using drugs." According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.4% of Americans aged 50-59 reported using a drug other than marijuana sometime in the last year, compared with only 7% of adults aged 35-49.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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