Health care utilization among young adult injection drug users in Harlem, New York

Alicia Cronquist, Vincent Edwards, Sandro Galea, Mary Latka, David Vlahov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This cross-sectional study investigated the predictors for and patterns of health care utilization among young adult injection drug users (IDUs). Methods: The subjects were 206 IDUs, ages 18-29, who were street-recruited from Harlem, New York. Participants were interviewed about their drug use, health conditions, and use of services such as health care, needle exchange programs (NEPs), and drug treatment in the preceding 6 months. Data were analyzed using logistic regression. Results: Health insurance was associated with use of health care both among NEP users [AOR (adjusted odds ratio) 10.66] and non-NEP users (AOR 2.45). Use of health care was independently associated with drug treatment (AOR 2.58), being gay/bisexual (AOR 3.86), and negatively associated with injecting cocaine (AOR 0.56). Half the participants (49%) had used health care in the previous 6 months; 48% were uninsured. Many participants who did not use health services reported a condition that would have warranted medical care. Implications: Health insurance was strongly associated with use of health care, particularly among those who attend NEPs. Young adult IDUs may benefit from increased efforts to help them arrange and maintain health insurance coverage, potentially at NEPs. NEPs may be connecting young IDUs with health insurance to medical care through referrals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-27
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of substance abuse
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Drug treatment
  • Health care utilization
  • Health insurance
  • Injection drug use
  • Needle exchange programs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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