The Impact of Opiate Agonist Maintenance Therapy on Drug Use Within Social Networks of Injecting Drug Users


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Abstract

This study examined whether participation in opiate drug treatment is associated with changes in drug use and injecting drug use within the social networks of injecting drug users. Participants were 245 injecting drug users who attended the Baltimore Needle Exchange Program during 2002–2004 and requested treatment and received a referral for opiate agonist treatment as part of an intervention to improve treatment outcomes. Data included interviews at baseline, 3, 6, 12, and 18 months and drug treatment program agency records. The mean age of participants was 42.2 years; 77% were African American, 69% were male, and 48% entered treatment. Final generalized estimating equations (GEE) models indicated that participants that entered opiate drug treatment exhibited approximately a 20% decrease in the proportional odds of having friends that used drugs (p = 0.04). Additionally, participants that entered opiate drug treatment exhibited a 26% decrease in the proportional odds of having friends that injected drugs (p = 0.01). These findings contribute evidence to further understand the dynamics between opiate drug treatment, changes in social network risk, and treatment outcomes, as well as suggest an important role for peer-based interventions to support entry and retention in opiate drug treatment.

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