Opium use, particularly in low doses, is a common practice among adults in northeastern Iran.
Dr Farin Kamangar and colleagues from Maryland, USA investigated the association between opium use and subsequent mortality from disorders of the digestive tract.
The researchers used data from the Golestan Cohort Study, a prospective cohort study in northeastern Iran, with detailed, validated data on opium use and several other exposures.
A total of 50,045 adults were enrolled during a 4-year period (2004–2008) and followed annually until 2012, with a follow-up success rate of 99%.
The team used Cox proportional hazard regression models to evaluate the association between opium use and outcomes of interest.
|17% of participants reported opium use|
|American Journal of Gastroenterology|
In all, 17% of participants reported opium use, with a mean duration of 13 years.
During the follow-up period 474 deaths from digestive diseases were reported.
Opium use was associated with an increased risk of death from any digestive disease.
The team observed that the association was dose dependent, with a hazard ratio of 2.2 for the highest quintile of cumulative opium use vs. no use.
The hazard ratios for the associations between opium use and malignant and nonmalignant causes of digestive mortality were 1.38 and 2.60, respectively.
The team found increased risks both for smoking opium, and for ingestion of opium.
Dr Kamangar's team concludes, "Long-term opium use, even in low doses, is associated with increased risk of death from both malignant and nonmalignant digestive diseases."