“The fact that these were, to an extent, predictable deaths raises additional concerns about the hazards of alcohol and drug problems in teens and young adults,” said Duncan B. Clark, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the Pittsburgh Adolescent Alcohol Research Center at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC.
Teens who abuse alcohol or drugs are more likely to die in early adulthood, according to a study by University of Pittsburgh researchers published in the current issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The researchers studied 870 white and African-American adolescents, ages 12 through 18, recruited from both clinical and community settings. The subjects were followed for up to eight years, starting in 1990.
Among the 870 adolescents, researchers noted 21 deaths, or about 2 percent of the group, at an average age of nearly 25 years. Fourteen of those deaths occurred in males with SUDs, or more than 10 percent of that group. Among African-American males with SUDs, 23 percent had died by the age of 25. Males with SUDs in this study group had a mortality rate far in excess of the rate of 137 per 100,000 reported for young adult males in the U.S. general population.
Socioeconomic status was not a significant predictor of survival time. Causes of death for the young adults in the study ranged from homicide and suicide to drug overdose and motor vehicle accidents.