A new study by researchers at the
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg
School of Public Health examined the connection between
Baltimore City's needle exchange program and drug treatment
programs. Individuals who enter treatment programs for drug
addiction were more likely to be HIV-positive females who
use the Baltimore City needle exchange programs. The study
highlights the need for treatment facilities to address
co-occurring problems, such as HIV and mental illness. It
is published in the December 2006 edition of the journal
Substance Use & Misuse.
"Needle exchange programs and drug user treatment
centers are two effective strategies to reduce HIV
infections and drug abuse," said Carl A. Latkin, lead
author of the study and a professor in the Bloomberg
School's Department of Health, Behavior and Society.
"Needle exchange programs reduce the number of contaminated
syringes in a community, and drug treatment reduces drug
use, which may indirectly reduce HIV transmission."
In their analysis, the study authors included 440
injection drug users who were interviewed from 1997 to 2002
as part of the Self-Help in Eliminating Life-Threatening
Diseases study, known as SHIELD. At follow-up, 166 of the
study participants were enrolled in methadone maintenance
or detoxification programs or a drug-free residential or
outpatient treatment program. Individuals who entered
treatment programs were more likely to be female,
unemployed and participants in Baltimore City's needle
exchange program, compared with individuals who did not
enter drug treatment programs. Those in treatment were also
more likely to be HIV positive, have a history of mental
illness and inject heroin. Individuals who did not enter
treatment programs were more likely to sniff or snort
cocaine or heroin.
"Needle exchange programs are an important part in
linking drug users with treatment," Latkin said. "Creating
trusting relationships with health care providers may
encourage more injection drug users to enter drug treatment
programs. Our study results clearly point to the need for
strong linkages between needle exchange programs and
treatment programs. There is also a need for treatment
services that have the capacity to address co-occurring
health problems found among drug users in Baltimore
The study authors also point out the need to publicize
the services offered by needle exchange programs beyond
needle distribution and disposal.
Authors of the study include Latkin, Melissa A. Davey
and Wei Hua, all of Johns Hopkins. Funding was provided by
the National Institute on Drug Abuse.