24 Apr Which People Are Most Likely to Start Abusing Injection Drugs When Past Their 20s?
Injection drug use is a blanket term for the use of a syringe and needle to deliver a drug or medication into the body. As a rule, addiction specialists use this term to characterize the injection of illegal/illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine, oxycodone or methamphetamine. While most people involved in this dangerous practice first inject themselves at a relatively early age, some individuals only initiate injection use when they get older. In a study published in May 2014 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from three U.S. institutions investigated the factors that make it more likely that an older person will start abusing injectable drugs.
Injection drug use can involve any type of drug or medication that dissolves when mixed with water. This includes both substances that come in a powdered form and tablets, pills or capsules that can be crushed in order to produce a powder. The most common form of injection drug use is also the most dangerous: IV (intravenous) injection, which relies on access to a vein to introduce a drug or medication directly into the bloodstream. Other forms of the practice include intramuscular injection, which introduces a drug or medication into muscle tissue; and subcutaneous injection, which introduces a drug or medication into the tissue layer beneath the skin. IV drug use is considered especially dangerous because it provides substances with rapid entry into the brain and carries a risk for the spread of potentially lethal infectious agents such as the hepatitis C virus and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). However, any form of injection drug use can potentially produce severe localized tissue damage or a potentially fatal infection called septicemia or blood poisoning.
Age and Injection Drug Use
In December 2011, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued a detailed report on certain important aspects of injection drug use in America in the time period between 1992 and 2009. The authors of this report found that in 1992, people between the ages of 18 and 25 comprised about 10.5 percent of all individuals entering treatment for IV drug abuse or some other form of injection drug abuse. By 2009, people in this age range made up fully 26.9 percent of all individuals entering treatment for injection drug-related issues. Interestingly, the number of people over the age of 49 entering treatment for injection drug abuse rose from 4.1 percent of the total to 10.4 percent of the total during the same span of time. Current findings indicate that roughly six out of every seven current injection drug abusers in the U.S. begin this form of drug intake before they reach the age of 30.
Which People Are Most Likely?
In the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from the University of Southern California, RTI International and the Global Forum on MSM and HIV used an assessment of 696 current injection drug users to identify the underlying factors that make it more likely that any given individual will start injection drug use/abuse after reaching the age of 30. All of these participants came from either San Francisco or Los Angeles and submitted information in detailed interviews conducted at some point between 2011 and 2013. This information included such things as basic demographics (age, gender, race/ethnicity, etc.), history of all forms of drug use/abuse, specific methods used during drug intake, participation in risky sexual practices and level of involvement with the health care system.
All told, 19 percent of the study participants first took an injection drug at or after the age of 30. After analyzing all of the submitted data, the researchers identified several factors that increase the odds of starting injection drug intake at this relatively late age. These factors include being a woman, having African American ancestry, having first participated in any form of drug abuse at a later age, having participated in some sort of substance treatment program before first use of injection drugs and having younger or same-age peers who provide an introduction to injection drug abuse.
Significance and Considerations
The authors of the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence concluded that people who first use injection drugs at a later age typically inject themselves less often than their peers who began injection use at a younger age. They also concluded that people who first use injection drugs at a later age have reduced chances of being affected by some form of bipolar disorder. The study’s authors point toward a need for further research on the health outcomes of a later-age introduction to injection drug intake, as well as a need for targeted methods to prevent the initiation of injection drug intake in those individuals who fall into one or more of the identified risk categories.
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