High rates of abscesses and chronic wounds in community-recruited injection drug users and associated risk factors

Maria Elisa Smith, Natanya Robinowitz, Patrick Chaulk, Kristine E. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Objectives: Abscesses and chronic wounds are common among injection drug users (IDUs) though chronic wounds have been understudied. We assessed the risk factors associated with both acute and chronic wounds within a community-based population of IDUs frequenting the Baltimore City Needle Exchange Program (BNEP). Methods: We performed a cross-sectional study of BNEP clients aged 18 years or more who completed an in-person survey regarding active or prior wounds including abscesses (duration <8 weeks) and chronic wounds (duration ≥8 weeks), injection practices, and skin care. Factors associated with wounds were analyzed using univariate and multivariate logistic regressions. Results: Of the 152 participants, 63.2% were men, 49.3% were white, 44.7% were African American, 34.9% had any type of current wound, 17.8% had an active abscess, and 19.7% had a current chronic wound. Abscesses were more common in women (odds ratio [OR], 2.56; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.10-5.97) and those reporting skin-popping (OR, 5.38; 95% CI, 1.85-15.67). In a multivariate model, risk factors for an abscess included injecting with a family member/partner (adjusted OR [AOR], 4.06; 95% CI, 0.99-16.58). In a multivariable analysis of current chronic wounds, cleaning skin with alcohol before injection was protective (AOR, 0.061; 95% CI, 0.0064-0.58). Conclusions: Abscesses and chronic wounds were prevalent among a sample of IDUs in Baltimore. Abscesses were associated with injection practices, and chronic wounds seemed linked to varying skin and tool cleaning practices. There is a pressing need for wound-related education and treatment efforts among IDUs who are at greatest risk for skin-related morbidity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-93
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of addiction medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • abscess
  • chronic wound
  • harm reduction
  • injection drug use
  • skin and soft tissue infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'High rates of abscesses and chronic wounds in community-recruited injection drug users and associated risk factors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this