(Received 8 September 1989; accepted 11 October 1989)
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The authors reviewed at autopsy the causes of death of 274 patients with evidence of intravenous drug abuse who had been admitted to a large public hospital. There were 127 who died from diseases unrelated to intravenous drug abuse, and in 41% of these, chronic alcoholism was implicated. Deaths from overdose syndromes and drug-related organ pathology comprised only 11% of all cases. The mean age at death was 39 years. There was a male/female ratio of 3.6:1. Half of all patients died from infection—72 from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) alone. These findings indicate that persons hospitalized with a history of intravenous drug abuse usually die from causes other than overdose and that AIDS and chronic alcoholism are significant problems. Emphasis should be placed upon detecting “hidden” intravenous drug deaths to provide more accurate statistical information.
Deputy medical examiner, County of Los Angeles, chief of autopsy, Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA
Resident in pathology, Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Stock #: JFS12937J