Prescription drug use and misuse in a cohort of people who inject drugs (PWID) in Baltimore

Alexia Anagnostopoulos, Alison G. Abraham, Becky L. Genberg, Gregory D. Kirk, Shruti H. Mehta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Prescription drug misuse and its consequences (e.g., overdose) are a major public health concern. While national focus has been on opioids, misuse of sedatives/tranquilizers also occurs. Here we describe the use, correlates, and sources of prescription drugs in a community-based cohort of people who inject drugs (PWID). Methods: We included participants of the AIDS Linked to the IntraVenous Experience (ALIVE) study in follow-up in 2014. We defined prescription drug use as use of opioids or sedatives/tranquilizers considering both medical “prescribed by a doctor” and non-medical sources “obtained from the street/friend/relative.” Correlates were evaluated separately for opioids and sedatives/tranquilizers using logistic regression and included socioeconomic factors, health conditions, substance use, and health care access. Results: 823 predominantly African-American (90.6%) and male (66.3%) ALIVE participants with a median age of 55 were included. Prevalence of prescription opioid and sedative/tranquilizer use was 25.3% and 16.3% respectively. While the majority (70%) obtained prescription drugs exclusively through medical sources, the 30% who reported any non-medical source were also more likely to use other substances by injection and non-injection routes. PWID reporting prescription drug use (from medical and non-medical sources) were significantly more likely to report other substance use, mental health disorder, and recent contact with health care providers or detoxification facilities. Conclusions: Prescription drug use was highly prevalent among PWID. While it is difficult to distinguish medically indicated from non-medical use, high levels of prescription drug use in conjunction with other drugs and alcohol heightens the risk for drug overdose and other adverse consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-45
Number of pages7
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • People who inject drugs (PWID)
  • Prescription drug use
  • Substance use
  • The ALIVE study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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