Reducing Risky Drug Use Behaviors by Enrolling Syringe Exchange Registrants in Methadone Maintenance

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Background: Referral of syringe exchange registrants with opioid use disorder to agonist treatment provides a pathway to further reduce drug use risk behaviors. Objective: This study evaluates the drug use risk reduction benefits of enrolling syringe exchange registrants in methadone maintenance, and the impact of continued illicit drug use on risk reduction. Method: Baltimore Needle Exchange Program (BNEP) registrants (n = 210) participated in a parent study evaluating treatment initiation strategies for methadone maintenance and were followed for six months. The Risk Assessment Battery (RAB; Metzger, 1993) was administered monthly to evaluate drug use risks; urinalysis testing was conducted weekly. Results: Treatment enrollment reduced drug use risk behaviors, and longer treatment episodes resulted in additional, though modest, risk reduction. Use of opioids or cocaine in treatment diminished risk-reduction benefits, though drug use risks declined over time and remained well below baseline levels. Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that methadone maintenance enhances the well-known risk-reduction benefits of syringe exchange participation. Improving coordination between syringe exchanges and treatment facilities may enhance the public health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)546-551
Number of pages6
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Syringe exchange
  • opioid agonist treatment
  • opioid use disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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