A comparison of 1-year substance abuse treatment outcomes in community syringe exchange participants versus other referrals

Karin Neufeld, Van King, Jessica Peirce, Ken Kolodner, Robert Brooner, Michael Kidorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This longitudinal cohort study of 324 consecutive admissions to methadone maintenance treatment between 08/1994 and 09/1997 compared 1-year outcomes of opioid-dependent patients referred from a syringe exchange program (SEP; n = 81) versus other sources (n = 243). All participants received stepped-based counseling. The Addiction Severity Index was completed upon admission. Treatment outcomes were assessed using weekly urine testing and days in treatment. GEE regression models were used to evaluate the association between baseline variables and treatment outcomes. SEP referrals were older, included more males and African Americans, reported greater unemployment and heavier heroin, cocaine, and injection drug use at admission. During treatment, SEP referrals used more opioids (OR 2.57; 95% CI 1.86-3.56) and cocaine (OR 2.77; 95% CI 1.93-3.95), and were less likely to complete 1 year (35%) compared to other referrals (56%; hazard ratio 1.88; 95% CI 1.35-2.62). Nevertheless, referral source was not significantly associated with outcome when adjusted for baseline characteristics. Greater baseline frequency of substance and injection drug use, and younger age were positively associated with ongoing opioid and cocaine use. African American race and baseline unemployment were also associated with ongoing cocaine use. Younger age and greater baseline cocaine use were associated with poorer retention at 1 year. The poorer treatment response of SEP referrals is likely due to higher baseline problem severity. Specialized interventions may be required to reduce drug use and improve retention in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-129
Number of pages8
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Methadone substitution
  • Outcomes
  • Syringe exchange
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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