Drug abuse treatment success among needle exchange participants

R. Brooner, M. Kidorf, V. King, P. Beilenson, D. Svikis, D. Vlahov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Objective. Although lowering incidence rates of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission is the primary goal of needle exchange programs (NEPs), other desirable outcomes are possible. Referring exchange participants to more comprehensive drug abuse treatment programs has the potential to reduce or eliminate the use of drugs. This possibility was evaluated by comparing the treatment responses of new admissions with an outpatient opioid agonist treatment program in Baltimore, Maryland. Methods. New admissions (1994-1997) to an opioid agonist treatment program were first grouped by referral source (needle exchange, n = 82 vs. standard referrals, n = 243) and then compared on admission demographic and clinical variables and response to treatment during the first three months. Outcome measures included retention rates, self-reported drug use and injecting frequencies, self-reported illegal activities for profit, and results from weekly urinalysis testing for opioids and cocaine. Results. Patients from the NEP were significantly older and more likely to be male, African American, and unemployed than standard referral patients. Needle exchange patients also had a greater baseline severity of drug use than patients in the standard referral group. Despite these baseline differences, both groups achieved comparably good short-term treatment outcomes (including reduced drug use and criminal activity for profit); treatment retention was also good, although slightly better in the standard referral group (88% vs. 76%). Conclusion. These data demonstrate the feasibility and merits of creating strong linkages between NEPs and more comprehensive drug abuse treatment clinics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-139
Number of pages11
JournalPublic Health Reports
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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