Assessing HIV and overdose risks for people who use drugs exposed to compulsory drug abstinence programs (CDAP): A systematic review and meta-analysis

Anh T. Vo, Christopher Magana, Matthew Hickman, Annick Borquez, Leo Beletsky, Natasha K. Martin, Javier A. Cepeda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Evidence supports integrating drug use treatment, harm reduction, and HIV prevention services to address dual epidemics of drug use disorders and HIV. These dual epidemics have spurred a rise in legally-enforced compulsory drug abstinence programs (CDAP), despite limited evidence on its effectiveness. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis evaluating the association between CDAP exposure and HIV and overdose-related risk. Methods: We searched PubMed, EBSCOhost and Sociological Abstracts for studies that contained an individual-level association between CDAP exposure and related HIV or overdose risks, with no date restrictions. Meta-analyses were conducted on data abstracted from eligible studies, using pooled random-effects models and I-squared statistics. We assessed quality of the studies across 14 criteria for observational studies. Results: Out of 2,226 abstracts screened, we included 8 studies (5253 individuals/776 events) across China, Mexico, Thailand, Norway, and the United States. All but two were cross-sectional analyses, limiting strength of observed associations. In the two studies that reported association between CDAP and HIV seropositivity or receptive syringe sharing, findings were inconsistent and did not indicate that those with exposure to CDAP had increased odds of HIV or syringe sharing. However, we found the odds of experiencing non-fatal overdose in lifetime and in the last 6-12 months were 2.02 (95% CI 0.22 - 18.86, p = 0.16) to 3.67 times higher (95% CI 0.21 - 62.88, p = 0.39), respectively, among those with CDAP exposure than those without. Conclusion: Research assessing HIV risk associated with CDAP is scant and inconclusive, while evidence of robust associations between CDAP and overdose risk continues to mount. More rigorous, longitudinal studies are needed to evaluate the causal relationships between CDAP and these health outcomes. Aside from the growing evidence base on collateral harms, ethical considerations dictate that voluntary, evidence-based drug treatment should be prioritized to address the drivers of excess morbidity and mortality among people who use drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103401
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Civil commitment
  • Compulsory drug abstinence program
  • Drug treatment
  • HIV
  • Harm reduction
  • Overdose
  • PWID
  • PWUD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


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