Self-care and risk reduction habits in older injection drug users with chronic wounds: A cross-sectional study

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: We surveyed a population of injection drug users (IDUs) frequenting the mobile Baltimore City Needle Exchange Program (BNEP) to investigate self-care factors associated with chronic wounds, a significant cause of morbidity especially among older IDUs. Methods: Participants ≥18 years old completed a survey regarding chronic wounds (duration ≥8 weeks), injection and hygiene practices. Study staff visually verified the presence of wounds. Participants were categorized into four groups by age and wound status. Factors associated with the presence of chronic wounds in participants ≥45 years were analyzed using logistic regression. Results: Of the 152 participants, 19.7% had a chronic wound. Of those with chronic wounds, 18 were ≥45 years old (60.0%). Individuals ≥45 years old with chronic wounds were more likely to be enrolled in a drug treatment program (Odds ratio (OR) 3.4, 95% Confidence interval (CI) 1.0-10.8) and less likely to use cigarette filters when drawing up prepared drug (OR 0.2, 95% CI 0.03-0.7) compared to the same age group without chronic wounds. Compared to individuals <45 years old without chronic wounds, individuals ≥45 with a chronic wound were more likely to report cleaning reused needles with bleach (OR 10.7, 95% CI 1.2-93.9) and to use the clinic, rather than an emergency room, as a primary source of medical care (OR 3.4, 95% CI 1.1-10.4). Conclusions: Older IDUs with chronic wounds have different, and perhaps less risky, injection and hygiene behaviors than their peers and younger IDUs without wounds in Baltimore City. Because of these differences, older IDUs with wounds may be more receptive to community-based healthcare and substance abuse treatment messages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number28
JournalHarm reduction journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Aging
  • Chronic wounds
  • Harm reduction
  • Injection drug use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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