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THE party drug generation of young women will pay a deadly price with new research showing the use of drugs such as cocaine and ice "evens out" the death rate between males and females.
The long-held heritage of women out-living men has been eroded by increased drug use, according to an Australian scientist's world-first research.
The new analysis of death rates due to illicit drugs shows women users die at 20 times the rate of other women, while drug-using men die at 10 times the rate.
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre expert Professor Shane Darke has analysed the rates and the cause of drug deaths and calls for more treatment centres to reverse the trend.
"The single most effective way is drug treatment. It reduces the rates of deaths dramatically," he said.
The high use of methamphetamines, such as ice and speed, as well as other drugs like ecstasy and cocaine, is likely to bring down the lifespan of many Australian women who consider their drug use recreational.
"A lot of recreational users are completely unaware of the longterm risks. I think the awareness of people who use drugs such as methamphetamines and cocaine, their awareness of the risk of cardiac disease is very low," Professor Darke said.
"There is no doubt drugs such as methamphetamines cause long term damage to the cardiovascular system.
"The more people are using these drugs, the more you are going to get long-term damage from them."
Professor Darke said the accumulative effects of illicit drugs significantly bring down a woman's longevity – and many effects of drugs are still unknown for a generation of young people.
"Where regular ecstasy users will be in 20 years if they are still using ecstasy is unknown . . . a lot of these things like methamphetamines are little timebombs sitting there until people get into middle-age."
Despite the rapid rise in chemical drug use – a recent UN World Drug Report named Australians as first in the world for ecstasy use and second for amphetamines – opiates such as heroin remain the biggest killer.
Overdose, disease, suicide and trauma are identified as being the major causes of death among users but the research also found 10 per cent of deaths were due to trauma.
One in ten deaths are due to incidents like murder, car accidents and other types of trauma.