The demographics, drug habits, and medical complications of a cohort of 1,129 addicts treated at Lexington in the period 1971-1972 were studied. These patients, admitted from 41 different states, had a mean period of addiction of 5.4 years. Over one-third of the sample had engaged in pimping or prostitution, and there were no differences by gender in terms of involvement. Eighty-eight percent had shared injection equipment, and surprisingly, 78% admitted to some effort at sterilizing their "works." Hepatitis was the most common associated medical condition: 87% had serologic markers of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, 60% had evidence of hepatitis A virus (HAV) exposure, and 47% had abnormal liver function parameters. Gynecomastia was evident in 2% of male subjects. Thirteen percent of the sample had a reactive VDRL assay, but 64% of these were biologically false positive. Subtle abnormalities of immune function were also observed; 18% of the patients had recent unexplained weight loss, 6% had lymphadenopathy, 8% had leukopenia, and 2% had lymphocytopenia. We conclude that both HBV and HAV were important infectious disease risks in these addicts, and that many evidenced deficiencies in immune function well before AIDS became a major public health concern.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Health(social science)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Psychiatry and Mental health