Premature death is a serious public health concern. The primary objective of this study was to examine premature deaths in terms of potential years of life lost (PYLL) in a cohort of 4817 treatment-seeking illicit drug users. Clients’ data were linked to the Finnish national cause-of-death register and the follow-up period ranged from 31 January 1997 to 31 December 2010. PYLL before 70 years was calculated for all deaths and cause-specific deaths by gender. We observed 496 deaths (417 males and 79 females) at the end of 2010. The mean age at death was 33.8 years, 34.3 years for males (range 18–68) and 31.4 years for females (range 16–53). Overall, 17,951 life years were lost; 14,898 among males and 3053 among females. The overall PYLL rate for males was more than twice that of females (513.0/1000 vs. 243.7/1000 person-years) but the mean PYLL was higher in females than males (38.6 vs. 35.7 years). Of the total PYLL, 34.8 % was due to accidental overdose, and 24.0 % to suicide. In both genders, accidental overdose and suicide were the two top-ranking causes of PYLL. Premature deaths among drug users are a potential loss to the society. Our findings suggest that measures targeting accidental overdose and suicide are top priorities for reducing preventable loss of life.
- Potential years of life lost (PYLL)
- Premature deaths
- Substance abuse