Longitudinal Changes in Drug Use Severity and Physical Health-Related Quality of Life among Untreated Stimulant Users

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The primary objective of this study was to investigate whether drug use severity is associated with physical health-related quality of life (HRQL) over time. Data are from a longitudinal, multi-state, natural history community study of users of cocaine and/or methamphetamine who were interviewed at 6-month intervals over 2 years with a 79% follow-up participation rate. Physical HRQL was assessed with the physical component summary (PCS) of the SF-8™ Health Survey and drug, alcohol, and psychiatric severity were all assessed with the Addiction Severity Index (ASI). Random coefficient regression analyses were conducted to test for longitudinal associations between the independent variables and SF-8 PCS scores. Reductions in drug use severity over time were accompanied by only minor improvements in SF-8 PCS scores, underscoring the potential long-term harm of illicit drug use on physical health. Greater psychiatric severity was strongly associated with lower SF-8 PCS scores, suggesting that clinical attention to mental health issues could potentially lead to improvements in perceived physical health as well as among stimulant users.