A Comparison of Liver Disease Mortality With HIV and Overdose Mortality Among Georgia Prisoners and Releasees: A 2-Decade Cohort Study of Prisoners Incarcerated in 1991

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Abstract

Objectives

We investigated whether eventual causes of death among a cohort of inmates imprisoned in the southeastern United States differed from those in previous prisoner studies.

Methods

We matched 23 510 prisoners in Georgia, a state with historically low levels of heroin consumption but moderate amounts of injection drug use, who were incarcerated on June 30, 1991, to death registries through 2010. Main exposure was 4-year time intervals over 2 decades of observation; main outcome was mortality from liver disease, HIV, and overdose.

Results

Although the HIV-related mortality rate exceeded that from liver-related conditions before 2003, liver disease subsequently surpassed HIV as a cause of death. Among 3863 deaths, 22 (0.6%) occurred within 2 weeks after release from prison. Of these, only 2 were caused by accidental poisoning (likely drug overdose). Cardiovascular disease and cancer were the most frequent causes of death in this aging cohort.

Conclusions

Our study design deemphasized immediate deaths but highlighted long-term sequelae of exposure to viral hepatitis and alcohol. Treating hepatitis C and implementing interventions to manage alcohol use disorders may improve survival among prisoners in the Southeast.

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