Twenty-five year mortality of US servicemen deployed in Vietnam: Predictive utility of early drug use

Rumi Kato Price, Nathan K. Risk, Keith S. Murray, Katherine S. Virgo, Edward L. Spitznagel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Large numbers of young men were exposed to high-quality opiates for a relatively short time period during military service in Vietnam. This study examined the relationships of opiate and other drug abuse before, during, and shortly after their time of service in Vietnam with the subsequent 25-year mortality among the cohort of 1227 US Army enlisted returnees and their matched civilians previously studied in 1972 and 1974. Composite factor scores of a variety of drug use measures and other individual behavioral measures were selected separately for three time periods around service in Vietnam from over 120 measures associated with mortality. Results of path analytic models applied to selected significant measures showed that both in-Vietnam and post-Vietnam drug use factors were large and significant predictors of mortality, controlling for pre-service drug use, continuity to later drug use, and demographic and other behavioral measures. The magnitude of the direct effect of drug use on mortality was larger than those of the covariates that were entered in the path analyses, except age. Notwithstanding the high remission rate from opiate addiction, drug use in Vietnam had considerable predictive utility for premature death in this cohort. In light of the re-emergence of increased heroin use since the mid-1990s, the findings point to the importance of early intervention of drug use and comorbid problems for today's youth now initiating heroin use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-318
Number of pages10
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2001


  • Early predictors
  • Follow-up
  • Mortality
  • Opiate abuse
  • Vietnam veterans


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