OBJECTIVES: Assess relationships among non-medical use of prescription opioid analgesics (POAs), heroin use, and HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) infection among persons who inject drugs (PWID) in New York City, 2016-2018.
METHODS: PWID (N = 134) were recruited from Mount Sinai Beth Israel drug treatment programs. HIV seropositive persons were oversampled. A questionnaire was administered, and serum samples were collected for HIV and HCV testing. Analyses were stratified by HIV serostatus and compared those who had used POAs to those who had not used POAs.
RESULTS: Among the participants, 97% reported injecting heroin, 44% reported injecting cocaine, and 47% reported smoking crack cocaine in the 6 months prior to the interview. There were 66% who reported oral non-medical use of POAs, with 42% using oral POAs in the previous 6 months. There was a clear historical pattern in median year of first injection for different groups: HIV seropositive persons (1985), HIV seronegative persons who never used POAs (1999), and HIV seronegative persons who used POAs (2009). By the time of interview (2016-2018), however, almost all participants (97%) reported injecting heroin. All PWID who reported using POAs also reported injecting heroin.
CONCLUSIONS: Non-medical POA use among PWID was very common and should not be considered a separate drug use epidemic, but as an additional component of the continuing heroin/poly-drug use epidemic, itself a part of the syndemic of opioid use, stimulant use, overdose, HCV and HIV occurring in New York City.
Prescription opiate analgesics, heroin, HIV and HCV among persons who inject drugs in New York City, 2016-2018
Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 204, 107459. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.04.030. PMCID: PMC6878143.