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    Recent reports of lead poisoning suggest that people who use opium may be exposed to high amounts of lead. Here, we investigate the association between opium use and blood lead levels (BLL) in a population-based cohort study. In 2017, we studied a random sample of 410 people who currently (both within the past year and the past month) used opium and 104 who did not from participants of the Golestan Cohort Study in northeast Iran. Participants were stratified by sex and tobacco use history, completed a comprehensive opiate and tobacco use questionnaire and provided blood. BLL was measured by Lead Care® II Blood Lead Test Kit, validated by inductively coupled plasma triple quadrupole mass spectrometry. BLL was categorized as "<5 µg/dL", "elevated" (5-10 µg/dL), "high" (10-50 µg/dL), and "very high" (above 50 µg/dL). To assess the association between BLL categories and opiate use, route of consumption and weekly use, we used ordered logistic regression models, and report OR (odds ratio) and 95% CI (confidence interval) adjusted for age, sex, place of residence, education, occupation, household fuel type, and tobacco use. In the cohort, participants used only raw (teriak) or refined (shireh) opium, which were smoked (45%, n = 184), taken orally (46%, n = 189), or both (9%, n = 37), for a mean duration of 24.2 (standard deviation: 11.6) years. The median BLL was significantly higher in people who currently used opium (11.4 µg/dL; IQR: 5.2-23.4) compared with those who did not (2.3 µg/dL; IQR: 2.3-4.2), and the highest median BLL was seen in oral use (21.7 µg/dL; IQR: 12.1-34.1). The BLL was <5 µg/dL among 79.8% of people with no opiate use, compared with only 22.7% in those using opium. BLL was elevated in 21.7%, high in 50.5% and very high in 5.1% of people using opium. About 95% of those with oral (180/189) or dual use (35/37) and 55% (102/184) of those who smoked opium had levels of blood lead above 5 µg/dL. The OR for the association between any opium use and each unit of increase in BLL category was 10.5 (95%CI: 5.8-19.1), and oral use of opium was a very strong predictor of increasing BLL category (OR=74.1; 95%CI: 35.1-156.3). This odds ratio was 38.8 (95%CI: 15.9-95.1) for dual use and 4.9 (95%CI: 2.6-9.1) for opium smoking. There was an independent dose-response association between average weekly dose and BLL among people using opium, overall and when stratified by route of use. Our results indicate that regular use of lead-adulterated opium can expose individuals to high levels of lead, which may contribute to mortality and cancer risks associated with long-term opium use. Copyright © 2022. Published by Elsevier B.V.


    Arash Etemadi, Sanam Hariri, Hossein Hassanian-Moghaddam, Hossein Poustchi, Gholamreza Roshandel, Amaneh Shayanrad, Farin Kamangar, Paolo Boffetta, Paul Brennan, Paul I Dargan, Sanford M Dawsey, Robert L Jones, Neal D Freedman, Reza Malekzadeh, Christian C Abnet. Lead poisoning among asymptomatic individuals with a long-term history of opiate use in Golestan Cohort Study. The International journal on drug policy. 2022 Jun;104:103695

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    PMID: 35472727

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