Volume 11 Issue 2
Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 2-Jan-2009 
Next Update - 14:00 UC 08:00 EST 3-Jan-2009

Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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Researchers estimate number of injection drug users in the United States

(2 January 2009: VIDYYA MEDICAL NEWS SERVICE) -- The stigma of injection drug use (IDU) makes calculating the number of injection drug users in a given place and time difficult; increasing the difficulty is users’ reluctance to report illicit activity. A group of investigators funded by NIDA have now created national IDU prevalence estimates for the United States for 1992 to 2002.

The investigators used existing estimates of the number of IDUs in the Nation in 1992 and 1998, then adjusted these estimates using information from databases containing records of injectors’ encounters in the United States with health services and with the criminal justice system during these years. These national IDU prevalence estimates were then apportioned to 96 large metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) using an estimate derived from published estimates of IDUs in each area in 1992 and in 1998, as well as data on IDUs’ AIDS diagnoses and related service use (such as the use of HIV counseling and testing, and drug treatment services).

The new estimates revealed that the number of IDUs per 100,000 persons varied across metropolitan areas from 30 to 348 in 1992, and from 37 to 336 in 2002. While the researchers found substantial variation in IDU prevalence across the 96 MSAs, overall, “the results…show a decreasing average trend across the 96 [metropolitan areas] until 2000, after which there was a slight increase,” state the authors.

Using reapportioned prevalence estimates such as these may be used to better predict overall and local trends in IDU prevalence, which will help public health researchers and policymakers develop new strategies to reduce IDU incidence and provide better services to at-risk populations.

Brady JE, Friedman SR, Cooper HL, Flom PL, Tempalski B, Gostnell K. Estimating the prevalence of injection drug users in the U.S. and in large U.S. metropolitan areas from 1992 to 2002. J Urban Health. 2008;85(3):323–351.

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