Correlates of unsafe syringe acquisition and disposal among injection drug users in Baltimore, Maryland

Elizabeth T. Golub, Joseph C. Bareta, Shruti H. Mehta, Lisa D. McCall, David Vlahov, Steffanie A. Strathdee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Because multi-person syringe use is the most common vehicle for HIV and hepatitis C virus transmission among injection drug users (IDUs), safe sources of sterile syringes and safe methods of disposal are necessary to curb these epidemics. We examined syringe acquisition and disposal in a cohort of IDUs in Baltimore. Between January 1, 1998 and December 31, 2001, 1034 participants reported on syringe acquisition at 3492 visits, and 953 reported on disposal at 2569 visits. Participants were 69.9% male, 93.9% African-American, and median age was 44. Syringes were acquired exclusively from unsafe sources at 32.3% of visits, while exclusively unsafe disposal was reported at 59.3% of visits. Significant correlates of unsafe acquisition were: attending shooting galleries, anonymous sex, sharing needles, smoking crack, and emergency room visits. Significant correlates of unsafe disposal were: injecting speedball, no methadone treatment, acquiring safely, and frequent injection. Having a primary source of medical care was associated with safe acquisition, but unsafe disposal. IDUs continue to acquire safely but dispose unsafely, especially among those with a primary source of care; this suggests that messages about safe disposal are not being disseminated as widely as those about acquisition. These data suggest the need for a more active program involving pharmacists, an expanded syringe access program, and better efforts to enhance safe disposal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1751-1764
Number of pages14
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 10 2005


  • Epidemiology
  • Injection drug use
  • NEP
  • Syringe acquisition
  • Syringe disposal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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