The health and social consequences during the initial period of the COVID-19 pandemic among current and former people who inject drugs: A rapid phone survey in Baltimore, Maryland

Becky L. Genberg, Jacquie Astemborski, Damani A. Piggott, Tanita Woodson-Adu, Gregory D. Kirk, Shruti H. Mehta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: There is limited data on the health and social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic among people who inject drugs (PWID). Methods: We conducted a rapid telephone survey from April-June 2020 among participants of the community-based AIDS Linked to the IntraVenous Experience (ALIVE) cohort study in Baltimore, Maryland. This interviewer-administered survey collected information on COVID-19 knowledge, symptoms, testing, diagnosis, and prevention behaviors, recent substance use, housing conditions, interruptions to healthcare, access to harm reduction and drug treatment, mental health, and social support. Results: Of 443 current and former PWID who participated in the survey, 36 % were female, 85 % were Black, 33 % were living with HIV and 50 % reported any substance use in the prior six months. COVID-19 awareness was high, but knowledge of symptoms and routes of transmission were lower. PWID reporting recent substance use were less likely to always socially distance (63 % vs. 74 % among those without recent use, p = 0.02), and Black PWID were more likely than non-Black to socially distance (73 % vs. 48 %, p < 0.0001) and use when alone (68 % vs.35 %, p < 0.01). Only 6% reported difficulty accessing healthcare, yet only 48 % of those on opioid-agonist treatment had a four-week supply available. While 34 % reported increased depressive symptoms, participants reported high levels of social support. Conclusions: This rapid assessment highlighted that PWID currently using drugs may be less able to practice social distancing and increased SARS-CoV-2 transmission may occur. Ongoing monitoring of substance use and mental health, as well as overdose prevention is necessary as the pandemic and public health responses continue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108584
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Volume221
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • HIV
  • Harm reduction
  • Mental health
  • PWID

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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