Health Behaviors of the Emergent Young Population of Heroin Injectors in the Seattle Area
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<bold>Background:</bold> Recent indicators point to substantial increases in the number of young heroin users across much of the United States. Increases in drug-caused deaths involving heroin in King County, Washington appear to be due to increases among young adults. New young adult users are also driving the recent increases in treatment admissions for heroin use in Washington State. The purpose of this study is to characterize this younger generation of heroin users. <bold>Methods:</bold> A cross-sectional analysis was conducted using intercept surveys at King County syringe exchange programs in 2013. Survey responses were restricted to heroin users (n=389) and then categorized by the participant's age (<30 and ≥30) for a descriptive epidemiological analysis. <bold>Results:</bold> Younger heroin users were more likely than older heroin users to be incarcerated in the last year (43.0% vs. 31.3%, p 0.023) and to report recent syringe sharing (36.7% vs. 19.9%, p<0.001). Younger users were also more likely to witness a recent overdose (68.0% vs. 55.2%, p 0.016) and to possess take-home naloxone during the three months prior to the survey (36.7% vs. 23.9%, p 0.009). Younger heroin users were less likely than older users to report a recent abscess (21.9% vs. 48.3%, p<0.001). <bold>Conclusion:</bold> Younger heroin users engage in risky injection practices more than older heroin users. A minority of respondents reported possession of take-home naloxone. Along with other significant differences between younger and older heroin users, these findings have implications for outreach programs and medical care for the younger generation of injection drug users.
- Health services