Injection Drug Users Need Targeted Help — Study

A study published in the July Journal of Addictive Diseases indicates what those of us in the treatment field have long known: that injection drug users, regardless of what kind of drugs they use, are at the greatest risk for associated medical problems, psychological problems and death, and most in need of effective intervention and treatment.  This is true despite the fact that injection users represent a relatively small percentage of alcohol and drug addicts as a whole.

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Because of the circumstances surrounding injection, which include overdose, infection, transmission of blood-borne diseases by dirty “works,” accompanying higher rates of abuse and addiction (as opposed to occasional use), and diverse psychological problems, the authors of the study believe that their findings can help spur targeting of these individuals.

The researchers analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health, which is conducted annually on roughly 70,000 children and adults in order to gain a statistically accurate overview of the current state of drug use and abuse in the United States.  The study showed that injection drug users were likely to be older than other abusers and addicts, more likely to live in rural areas, be unemployed, and not have achieved graduation from high school or its equivalent in education.  Unemployment was one of the major issues defining the group.

Lead author Scott Novak, senior behavioral health epidemiologist at RTI International, stated “Our findings indicate that injection drug use is associated with substantially more substance abuse-related problems than non-injection drug use, including a higher prevalence of dependence, unemployment, and co-occurring mental and physical disorders.  “These problems appear to characterize a treatment-resistant population in need of specialized treatments.”

RTI International provides research and technical services to governments and businesses in the areas of health and pharmaceuticals, education and training, surveys and statistics, advanced technology, international development, economic and social policy, energy and the environment, and laboratory testing and chemical analysis.

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