A cohort of 214 drug addicts with serum hepatitis and a cohort of 193 hepatitis patients without drug addiction were examined in respect of death rates, causes of death and a number of risk factors for reduced survival. The death rate was significantly higher among the drug addicts than among non-addicts. The annual mortality rate was 1·5% in the drug addict group and 0·7% in the non-addict group. The highest relative risk of death was 860 for female drug addicts in age group 15–24 compared to females of the same age in the general population. The most prevalent cause of death in the drug addict group was drug overdose (53%), whereas in the other group 66% died from various somatic diseases. Hepatitis or complications of viral hepatitis played no role as cause of death among the drug addicts, and infections as a whole were also responsible for very few deaths. For male drug addicts, imprisonment before admission and leaving hospital without the doctors' permission were risk factors for early death.