November 7, 2006
The researchers designed the current study to assess the effect of a needle exchange program (NEP) on the incidence of injection cessation and change in injection frequency by injection drug users (IDUs), to explore predictors for cessation and change in frequency, and to learn whether IDUs who stopped injecting switched to non-injecting drug use.
In Chicago between 1997 and 2001, 901 IDUs were recruited from an NEP or an area with no NEP. Participants were interviewed regarding their drug use behaviors, tested for HIV, and exposed to drug abuse- and HIV-prevention services. The IDUs were followed for three annual visits.
Of participants, 16 percent reported stopping injection for a median duration of 16 months. Most of these ceased, rather than initiated, the use of non-injected drugs. IDUs who continued injecting reduced their frequency of injection by 12 percent per year on average. Independent predictors of quitting injection were infrequent injection at baseline, younger age and injecting with others. Using the NEP was not associated with injection cessation and change in frequency of injection.
The researchers concluded, "These results did not support the hypothesis that NEP use influences the frequency of injection over time. One-sixth of IDUs stopped injection for more than one year, providing a substantial window for relapse prevention interventions."