People Who Inject Drugs and Have Mood Disorders—A Brief Assessment of Health Risk Behaviors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: People who inject drugs have a greater risk of infectious disease and mortality than other substance abusers and nondrug users. Variation in risk behavior among people who inject drugs is likely associated with comorbid mental health disorders. Objectives: Examine the association between a history of mood disorder and recent risk behavior among people who inject drugs. Methods: With baseline data from a behavioral HIV prevention clinical trial in a population of people who inject drugs, we used logistic regression models to compare the risk behaviors of people who report a past diagnosis of bipolar disorder (n = 113) or depression (n = 237) to a comparison group with no history of diagnosed mental illness (n = 446). We also assessed differences between groups before and after adjusting for demographic characteristics and current depressive symptoms. Results: While there were no differences between groups in frequency of drug use, people who inject drugs who report a history of mood disorders reported more injection risk behaviors, drug overdoses, sex exchanges, and multiple partners than those with no history of mental illness. Adjusting the comparison for demographic characteristics and current depressive symptoms had little impact on these findings. Variation in risk between depression and bipolar disorder groups was minimal. Conclusions/Importance: People who inject drugs and have mood disorders have unique and significant social, clinical, and risk reduction needs. Despite the limited validity of self-reported mental health history, simply asking about a history of mood disorder may be effective for identifying a particularly vulnerable population of people who inject drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1181-1190
Number of pages10
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Jul 29 2017



  • harm reduction
  • mood disorders
  • Substance-related disorders
  • urban populations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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