Drug user treatment referrals and entry among participants of a needle exchange program

Elise D. Riley, Mahboobeh Safaeian, Steffanie A. Strathdee, Robert K. Brooner, Peter Beilenson, David Vlahov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Objective. To compare characteristics of needle exchange program (NEP) participants who requested methadone treatment to those who did not, compare participants who subsequently enrolled into treatment to those who did not enroll, and suggest possible barriers to treatment among NEP participants. Methods and Materials. Between 8/94 and 2/97, data pertaining to demographics and drug use were collected from Baltimore NEP participants upon registration. Participants were made aware that referrals to off-site methadone maintenance were available upon request. Odds ratios and multiple logistic regression models were used to compare those who requested treatment to those who did not and those who entered treatment to those who did not enter. Results. Among 2659 NEP participants, 86% were African-American, 28% were female, 9% were employed, and the median age was 38 years. Requesting a drug user treatment referral was associated with female gender [Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR) = 2.02], age > 38 years (AOR = 1.96), use of speedballs during the past 6 months (AOR = 3.38), and age > 20 years at time of first injection (AOR = 1.59). Among 139 individuals who requested treatment, males were twice as likely as females to enter treatment (OR = 2.45). In an open-ended survey, health insurance (p = .02) and not living with children (p = .01) were associated with drug user treatment entry. Conclusions. Even though female NEP participants were more likely to request methadone treatment, they were less likely than males to enter treatment. Although NEPs can be a bridge to drug user treatment, these data suggest that barriers to utilizing treatment referrals are important issues to resolve, especially for women who use community needle exchange programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1869-1886
Number of pages18
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number14
StatePublished - 2002


  • "Substance abuse"
  • Injection
  • Methadone maintenance
  • Needle exchange
  • Treatment barriers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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