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Opioid Addicts More Likely to Die Than All Other Drug Users, Even Meth Heads

The heyday of pill mills and opiate overdoses in South Florida may be over, but the ill effects of the craze will likely linger for years. 

One giant bummer of a new study shows that those who opted for opiates as their preferred choice for getting high are 5.71 times more likely to die than someone not abusing drugs. That rate is highest of any drug examined, including methamphetamines and alcohol. 

Here's how the researchers framed the risk of getting all comfortably numb via a handful of oxy pills: If ten individuals of the general population die over a certain period of time, 57 people dependent on opioids -- including heroin -- will die in the same period.  

The study, conducted by researchers with the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada, showed that those addicted to meth were 4.67 times more likely to die than an average, healthy Joe, while those fond of hitting the bottle as their escape were 3.83 times more likely to die. 

One reason researchers carried out the study was to dispel the notion that crystal meth is America's most dangerous drug. A statement on the study says:

"One reason for undertaking this study was to examine whether methamphetamine posed a particular threat to drug users, as it has been called 'America's most dangerous drug,'" says CAMH Scientist Dr. Russell Callaghan, who led the study. Globally, methamphetamine and similar stimulants are the second most commonly used class of illicit drugs. "The risk is high, but opioids are associated with a higher risk. We also wanted to compare mortality risks among several major drugs of abuse, as this comparison hasn't been done on this scale before."

Interestingly, booze affected the highest number of people "with 166,482 deaths and 582,771 hospitalizations over the study period." 

The researchers also said they were surprised to find marijuana linked to a 3.85-fold risk of death, higher than the risks associated with alcohol and cocaine. They said this number was likely skewed by pot users who are chronically ill with ailments such as cancer and AIDS. 

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Chris Sweeney

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