Hepatic cirrhosis is infrequently diagnosed in young adults. In a hospital for addictive diseases in New York City, we found cirrhosis in 53 patients under age 35 within just 40 months. The cirrhosis was biopsy-proven in 37 patients (group I) and diagnosed clinically in 16 patients with severe liver disease (group II). Alcohol abuse was found in 51 patients (96%), and parenteral heroin abuse was seen in 52 (98%). The duration of alcohol abuse was seven or fewer years in 24 patients (45%) and 10 or fewer in 39 (74%). In 44 (83%), the substance abuse began in adolescence. Comparison of group I cirrhotic patients with 65 non-cirrhotic biopsied patients showed that cirrhosis was significantly associated with abuse of both alcohol and parenteral heroin (p less than 0.001). The distribution of 66 HLA antigens from A, B, C, and DR loci showed no differences when 42 patients were compared with 42 ethnically-matched control substance abusers. The early development of cirrhosis in these young patients may be related to multiple hepatic injuries induced by alcohol and parenteral heroin abuse and to the onset of addictive diseases during adolescence or early adult life.
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